TUSK (the first 30 minutes) – Directed by Kevin Smith, written by Kevin Smith, staring Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment, Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez, Harley Morenstein and Ralph Garman; currently unrated; running time: currently unknown.
The first 30 minutes of Kevin Smith’s upcoming podcast inspired horror film “Tusk” was shown to a small public audience in Logan Utah on June 15, 2014. The lucky 100 or so at Deathray Comics for the live Smodco podcast "Jay and Silent Bob Get Old" got to see the first act of what very well could be the best film of Kevin Smith’s career. Although a full opinion cannot possibly be reached off only a first act, the film as shown could also be one of the more exciting horror films in recent years. "Tusk" is the brainchild of an episode of Smith's widely popular podcast "Smodcast". During episode 259 "The Walrus and the Carpenter" Smith and his co-host (and long-time producer) Scott Mosier joked about a hilarious personals ad where in it a man was seeking another to dress in a walrus suit and pretend to be a walrus for free room and board. The discussion became a moment of whimsy for Kevin Smith where he asked the Internet if the idea would be a good movie. He had listeners respond over Twitter with the hashtag #WalrusYes. The support was overwhelming and the rest, as they say, is history.
The writing is punchy and acerbic with moments that sound like Smith and other moments that sound like madness. Madness it turns out is exactly what Kevin Smith was going for. Michael Parks, who worked with Kevin on his previous horror film outing “Red State”, is back to play a deranged but poetic old sailor named Howard Howe. Howard is the one who posts the personals ad but, in the film, it is on a bulletin board above a bathroom urinal in Canada and not on the Internet. The ad is similar in flavor to the one that inspired the Smodcast episode that inspired the film, but when Parks reads it in the rich Canadian accent of Howes, it takes on an entirely different and almost sinister feeling.
Michael Parks’ is astounding. His performance left me with a cold chill down my spine.
Howard Howe is well spoken and full of quotes from Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.” Michael Parks’ is astounding. His performance left me with a cold chill down my spine. It is Parks’ erudite character’s punctuating dialogue that sells the dark maliciousness of his character, but the violence and deep madness of his character is told through his interactions with his victim, Justin Long.
Justin Long begins the movie as a podcaster who is travelling to the “true north” on a short podcasting excursion. There are many great inside jokes from the last 7 years of Smodco podcasts for fans to find but they’re so incredibly subtle and well done that they are true Easter Eggs and viewers who have not heard the podcasts will not feel cheated or feel like they’re missing out on anything. The places where the Easter Eggs happen flow naturally into the story and are a great treat for long time listeners.
At the beginning of the act Long's character is the closest thing to any of Smith's films prior to "Red State". His character comes off as raunchy and willing to exploit any situation for a laugh. Long's character is a funny man on the Internet after all, and there is no censorship unless it’s self-censorship. For the sake of the show, the podcaster has no self-censorship whatsoever. Some might think him a monster for his ruthless exploitation of regular people for the sake of a joke. To Parks’ Howe, the podcaster is an educated but foolish man who like the rest of his generation is spoiled by the age and technology. Howard Howe refers to Long’s podcaster once as a “libertine”.
Long's character is the closest thing to any of Smith's films prior to "Red State".
That libertine podcaster is hard not to laugh at and with. That he is the primary source of punch lines makes the final moments of the first act so much more unsettling as uproarious laughter is replaced with the nervous variety. The confusion, fear, and pain Long's character is going through feel very real. Justin Long's ability to sell the audience on the intensity of the events in the scenes closing moments is nothing short of terrifying.
Parks makes for a Howard Howe who is truly monstrous. Howe's dialogue is full of words that make sense when you hear them but only that they're connected into sentences. The way in which he says those words is perplexing though, because no sane person would speak the way Howard Howe speaks. The brutality of the juxtaposition between when Long is first introduced to Parks and when things take that inevitable horror film turn for the worse is truly wonderful. Long's podcaster appears to be in agony and trapped as Parks as the madman takes him down the rabbit hole. Kevin Smith has said that the rabbit hole awaits all of his fans and film lovers alike. If Smith's hopes come true, "Tusk" will premier at the Toronto Film Festival this Fall.
Netheads Live at Deathray Comics: Trent Hunsaker, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Will Wilkins
EDITORS NOTE: This article has been updated to clarify that Kevin Smith is hopeful "Tusk" will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival this Fall.