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

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.

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