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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Tusk

December 28th, 2014

Tusk - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Tusk is the latest film from Kevin Smith, who has a mixed track record at the box office. He has made some amazing movies, like Clerks and Chasing Amy. However, he has also made some serious misses, like Cop Out. Is this one of his better films? Or is this another recent miss?

The Movie

The film begins with a titlecard telling us that the film is based on true events. It's not. It is inspired by a prank classified ad where a man was offering free boarding, but only if the new tenant would wear a walrus suit. This information becomes important for my review.

Wallace and Teddy are two best friends who have a podcast called the Not See Party. They watch viral videos and make fun of the people involved. The most recent video is called the Kill Bill Kid and it is a has a kid showing off with a samurai sword before cutting his leg off. If I saw this video online, I would have assumed it was a special effects demo reel. Wallace decides to head off to Canada to interview Kill Bill Kid.

Wallace's trip to Canada gets off to a rough start with a difficult border agent. When he gets to Kill Bill Kid's house, Wallace learns he killed himself. Wallace is more than a little pissed off that the kid killed himself, before he could interview him. At first he wants to fly back right away, but instead decides to find someone else to interview for the show. He thinks he finds the perfect subject while in the bathroom. Among the bills posted on the bathroom wall is a handwritten note that offers a free room, with stories of his past adventures. Wallace calls the man, Howard Howe, and takes him up on his offer.

This turns out to be a mistake. The big picture elements of what happens to Wallace are not really a spoiler, as that's how the movie was advertised, but I don't want to spoil the little details.

However, while what happens to Wallace at Howard Howe's place enters into spoiler territory, it isn't the only plot elements in the movie. We flash back to a day before Wallace travels to Canada and he's with his girlfriend, Allison, who wants him to stay at home. She doesn't like the new Wallace, who has used cruelty to get famous. If he is to go, she wants to go with him. As Wallace later tells Teddy, he doesn't want Allison to come along, because he's not as mean when she's there and he needs to be at the top of his game during this interview. Also, he wants to meet female fans in Canada. Yep, he's cheating on Allison, because he's that kind of man. (He's not the only one in this relationship who is cheating.) Very soon after Wallace realizes the mistake he's made, he tries to call Allison and Teddy, only to get voicemail. He leaves messages with both of them and when the pair get them, they call the cops and head to Canada to help find their friend. Once there, they find an ally in Guy Lapointe, a former police detective who has been trying to track down Howard Howe for 20 years.

As I mentioned above, Tusk is based on a classified ad, one that turned out to be a hoax. However, the former is more important than the latter. There is not enough material in a classified ad to generate an entire movie. (I know, Safety Not Guaranteed was also based on a classified ad, but I contend that was a fluke.) Because the premise is so thin, Kevin Smith had to add a lot of strange elements, including but not limited to Guy Lapointe, and the strange ideas weren't able to gel together in a cohesive whole. Parts of the movie really work; Michael Parks' performance as Howard Howe among them. You could have had an entire movie of him telling wild stories to Wallace without including any of the body horror elements. As for the body horror elements, they are going to be the most divisive elements of the movie. I didn't find these parts scary, which for a horror movie is a failing. It would be hard to argue otherwise. It did touch on some interesting subjects, like the duality of man, but I couldn't take it seriously.

Overall, Tusk is an audacious premise that is executed with mixed results. If you like the genre, then it is worth checking out, but it doesn't live up to its potential.

The Extras

The extras begin with an audio commentary track with Kevin Smith. There is also a 24-minute long featurette on the career of Kevin Smith. Up next is a multiple-part, 50-minute making of featurette. The making of featurette starts with a short animated segment of Smodcast #259, where Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier first discussed the classified ad that formed the basis of the movie. The DVD and Blu-ray also includes the full 30-minute Smodcast. Finally, there are two deleted scenes, with introductions by Kevin Smith.

The technical presentation is good, all things considered. The film only cost $3 million to make, but it was shot digitally. Taking those two points into consideration and the movie looks great with sharp details and, when called for, strong colors. A lot of the movie takes place in dark scenes, so the colors are not shown off as much. The audio is a 5.1 surround sound is mostly uncomplicated with the score being the only sounds you'll hear in the surround sound speakers in most scenes. It is still a very clear track, which is more important than being a showy track.

The Blu-ray costs $15, which is $3 or 25% more than the DVD. It's hard to complain about the price.

The Verdict

Tusk is a movie that doesn't live up to its potential, but it is such a strange premise that it is worth checking out for that reason alone, assuming you don't mind body horror. The DVD and Blu-ray have enough extras that if you liked the movie, it is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Tusk, Johnny Depp, Justin Long, Scott Mosier, Haley Joel Osment, Michael Parks, Kevin Smith, Genesis Rodriguez, Harley Morenstein, Doug Banks