Kevin Smith’s Tusk is about as strange a theater experience as you’re apt to have this year, and I mean that in the best way possible. Tusk centers on Wallace, played by Justin Long, a podcaster who owes his success to the misfortunes of others. Wallace along with his co-host, Teddy-played by an adult Haley Joel Osment – are hosts of the NotSee Party, a podcast that finds its success making mean spirited jokes at the expense of unfortunate people. Wallace plans a trip, alone, to the great white north to interview a boy that accidentally amputated his leg while playing with a samurai sword, and arrives to find a throng of mourners at the boy’s house. The tragedy that was going to be fodder for their show, has resulted in the depressed boy committing suicide. Rather than return home empty handed, an unsympathetic Wallace finds a poster written by a man offering lodging and stories in exchange for housework, and decides to interview him instead. The old seaman, played by Michael Parks, is the highlight of the movie. Smith proves himself an able director in capturing the creepy ambiance of the old man’s house and Parks’ charisma is top notch as he spins tales from shipwrecks to an encounter with Hemingway. We, along with Wallace, listen intently until a drugged Wallace passes out, and then he wakes up-
Going any further would spoil a lot of the fun that I had with the movie; it was the unexpected twists and turns of both the plot and tone of the film that kept me engaged and wondering where Smith was headed. Surprisingly, I’ve heard that this is a film that will exclusively appeal to Kevin Smith diehards, but truth be told, I have no strong feelings about him as a writer or director either way in most cases. I was pleasantly surprised by the multiple strong performances in the film, the well rendered practical effects(as a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I’m a sucker for latex and rubber gore) and Smith’s bravery as he risks throwing away some of the tension he establishes in an effort to keep us guessing. I like films that don’t feel like anything else, and that’s one thing Tusk has in abundance.