Earlier than Kevin Feige launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a special Kevin from New Jersey created a shared cinematic universe of stoners, slackers, and Star Wars nerds. However after leaving his “View Askewniverse” with Clerks II in 2006, director Kevin Smith embraced a darker aspect to his artistry with tales that detoured far-off from the Backyard State Parkway.
The outcome was a messy but daring trilogy of horror motion pictures that peaked within the center with the bizarro physique horror Tusk. An unlikely alliance between Smith and status home A24, Tusk is the horror film you should watch earlier than it leaves Netflix on July 18.
In Los Angeles, Wallace (Justin Lengthy) and his finest buddy Teddy (Hayley Joel Osment) are the hosts of a crass podcast empire. Wallace flies to Canada to interview a brand new viral superstar, solely to be taught they’ve killed themselves in embarrassment. Determined for a narrative, Wallace finds an advert for a roommate, providing free hire in change for listening to what the host guarantees are vastly attention-grabbing tales.
Wallace takes up the supply and meets Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a former seaman in a wheelchair with tall tales a couple of walrus that saved his life. Howard then poisons Wallace, who wakes as much as discover his legs amputated. Howard quickly reveals his plans to surgically rework Wallace right into a walrus to recreate his previous reminiscences of being misplaced at sea.
An unholy concoction combining The Texas Chain Noticed Bloodbath with The Human Centipede, Tusk begins as an earnest try by Smith to make artwork that feels deranged and inhuman. That is a daring factor from somebody whose work has been largely mild and earnest for the higher a part of 20 years. Even in his emotionally tough motion pictures, like Chasing Amy and Jersey Lady, there’s at all times a smile on his everybody’s faces when the credit roll.
Sadly for Tusk, which begins as an actual effort by Smith, the auteur will get in his personal method. It’s a film with a spectacular first half and a tonally dissonant and ugly second half. In the long run, it is unclear how we’re presupposed to really feel. When Justin Lengthy’s walrus is revealed, shock turns into horror, and horror turns into dangerous comedy.
Lengthy’s agonized wailing, presumably because of trauma that is robbed a podcaster of speech, finally ends up feeling like a bizarre joke. Johnny Depp, who inexplicably seems as a Quebecan detective, is a punchline dragged on too lengthy with the only real goal of dishing out Smith’s limitless fascination with Canadian accents. That Tusk is lit like a comedy, like different Smith’s motion pictures, makes it clear Smith had second ideas about alienating his built-in viewers.
Tusk is nowhere close to Smith’s finest and even most attention-grabbing motion pictures. That honor continues to be waged between his romantic drama Chasing Amy and his Catholic satire Dogma, a film you possibly can’t stream on any current service on account of its possession below the satan. (So right here it’s on YouTube.) However Tusk stays an interesting anomaly within the director’s filmography, the midpoint to an experimental interval for Smith who lastly ventured past his consolation zone.
The making of Tusk and the circumstances to its creation in some ways eclipse the film itself. First, its origins might be present in an episode of Smith’s personal podcast the place he and co-host Scott Mosier learn a Gumtree advert for a house owner providing free area, as long as the visitor clothes like a walrus.
Fascinated in the identical method stoners are fascinated by their fingers, Smith and Mosier cook dinner up a narrative impressed by the advert. Smith ends the podcast daring his listeners to inform them if it is a film they need to make, and you’ll guess how they answered. (In a twist that’s perhaps not that unpredictable, the Gumtree advert was a hoax planted by UK prankster Chris Parkinson. Upon discovering out, Smith introduced on Parkinson as a producer for the movie.)
However there are origins earlier than a podcast. In 2011, after Cop Out turned out to be the director’s final studio comedy, Smith returned to impartial movie and launched into a brand new artistic avenue: horror.
It began with the 2011 image Purple State. As soon as a religious Catholic, Smith’s first horror film is forged by the shadows of his battles with the novel Christian proper (who protested Dogma) and the work of buddy Malcolm Ingram, whose 2006 documentary Small City Homosexual Bar (which Smith produced) interviewed Westboro chief Fred Phelps. In Purple State, a number of sexy youngsters are catfished and turn out to be prisoners of a violent Christian church. Their chief, Abin Cooper, is “very a lot impressed by a Phelps determine,” Smith informed Rotten Tomatoes in 2007.
In casting Purple State, Smith turned to Michael Parks, as soon as the star of the NBC western Then Got here Bronson, who was blacklisted from Hollywood. Looking for a fanatical non secular villain not not like Fred Phelps, Smith discovered his antagonist in Michael Parks.
Smith liked Michael Parks. When the actor died in 2017, Smith praised him as “essentially the most unbelievable thespian.” Following Purple State, Smith stated he just about made Tusk simply to work with him once more.
“I simply wished to showcase Michael Parks in a fucked up story, the place he might recite some Lewis Carroll and The Rime of the Historic Mariner to some poor motherfucker sewn into a sensible walrus costume,” wrote Smith in 2013. When Parks died, he expressed: “Solely Michael Parks might have delivered the road ‘Is man certainly a walrus at coronary heart?’ and make it scary as fuck.”
With Purple State, Smith sought to discover specific modern American politics via the filter of a violent horror film, which is in step with the style’s wealthy traditions. With Tusk, Smith simply wished to be as fucked up as attainable — which is in step with human nature.
Tusk is streaming now on Netfllix till July 18.