Saturday, March 7, 2015

Film Review: Tusk (2014)

Copyright: A24 Films
It is rare to see a film where the crucial moment of failure is clearly visible and easy to identify. For me, Tusk is without a doubt one of these films, which was blessed with big potential, only to see it destroyed by a single miscalculation.

Kevin Smith directed Tusk, partly I believe, as his way of showing everyone that he really doesn’t care about what other people think is a good movie plot. In it, he tried to connect apparently random things which hold absolutely no intrinsic terror in them, like walruses and Canada and mold them into a horror tale.

As his means of delivery, he chose body horror, a genre that is even at the best of times hard to pull off and often in recent history, ended up as disastrous movies. Tusk continues this trend.

In his tale, his main character, a comedy radio DJ called Wallace travels to Canada to interview a young man who cuts off his leg in a funny blooper video that went viral. He fails to meet him thanks to a suicide by the same man, but instead finds a letter from an old sailor, taped to a bar’s toilet wall. There, he reads that the man is calling people to come and meet him. Recognizing the scent of odd comedy potential, Wallace decides to go to his house, unknowing that a walrus-type of terror awaits him there. 

Smith wanted to gross people out with this film, but also to make them laugh. At first, he succeeds, mainly thanks to the incredible talent and allure of Michael Parks who plays the weird sailor. In the first half, Tusk is smooth and funny, trapping the viewer in its tale. Like Suburban Gothic, it has the chops for great laughs, but in the background, the terror of its story continues to swell towards a setup made famous by films like Misery.

But then, the character of Guy Lapointe enters the fold and destroys the film like a bear tearing up through a tent made of bacon. Lapointe is played by Johnny Depp, who wears a lot of makeup and nose prosthetics, and is supposed to be a Canadian washed-out detective on the trail of a serial killer. His introduction into the story lasts for more than 15 minutes and includes a mind-numbing flashback segment where he recounts his accidental meeting with the old sailor, whom he suspects to be the killer.

This entire segment of Tusk is almost unbearable to watch and made me cringe with all kinds of unpleasant feelings. Depp uses a heavy and drooled accent of a fake French speaker and makes Lapointe character into a kind of depressive, slowed down, and an idiotic version of Inspector Jacques Clouseau. With this role, not only did Depp go completely off, but he also killed the film. From that point, the story implodes as the narrative splits until it ends abruptly in a euthanasia-like move by Smith. 

In a single moment, all that was good in Tusk movie was lost and forgotten, replaced by Lapointe, who hijacks the film and takes it deep into the water of unfunny stupidity where it quietly drowns.