Fantastic Fest Review: Kevin Smith’s ‘Tusk’ Shows Its Ugly Teeth

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Cole Clay // Film Critic

TUSK | 102 min. | Rated R | Director: Kevin Smith | Stars: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Ashley Greene, Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Melody Depp

Fans have known Kevin Smith the past 20 years strictly for his (excuse the expression) dick and fart brand of humor. There is a place for that, but Smith is now aware that time has since passed and that his viewers have aged with the times. His latest film TUSK (which is the first in Smith’s True North trilogy) explores the darker corners of his his mind with moments of sheer terror and humor that only a veteran horror director could have orchestrated.

TUSK has a rather peculiar narrative that should remain somewhat of a mystery if you are unaware of the premise. But, it’s about a renowned podcaster named Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) who scathes North America looking for eccentric people to exploit all for the sake of making his co-host (an all grown-up Haley Joel Osment) pee his pants with laughter.

Long portrays the sociopathic podcaster with the playful spirit he has been known for the past decade, but he’s able to cause the audience to empathize with this poor sap although he has very few redeeming qualities (some may have forgotten his reeling performance in JEEPERS CREEPERS).

Once Long and Michael Parks collide, the rest of their scenes are spent forging a fascinating juxtaposition that anchors the film. Parks, who dazzled in Smith’s last film RED STATE, is given full-reign by the camera to fully encapsulate the screen as a salty sailor whose maritime stories are long-winded prose dedicated to life at sea.

Check out our interview with Justin Long (here).

Smith has created a film that is genuine horrific. On the surface it’s just an excuse to torture poor Mr. Bryton, who appears to be in incredible discomfort when his new form takes shape. However, Smith turns this into a morality tale, which is as heartbreaking as it is terrifyingly fun. Riddled in the frames are subtle touches that attest to Smith’s snarky sensibilities.

Although the film meanders around the stories just a bit too long, it works due to Smith’s affinity to create convincing dialogue. There is a line in the film, “this talisman is a draw-bridge to history,” which sums up this film quite well. TUSK has marked a change in direction for Smith without missing a step.

TUSK premieres tonight at Fantastic Fest, and opens in select theaters.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.

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