I’ve been looking forward to the release of this movie since it was first announced. Kevin Smith’s Red State was one of my favourite movies of 2011. I’d seen some of Smith’s other movies and they’re fine, but I can’t say they’d made me a Kevin Smith fan. With Red State, his first foray out of comedy, I felt that I was on my way (alongside his Degrassi championing). Tusk was the chance for me to find out whether I could actually begin calling myself a fan of his. After TIFF’s Midnight Madness last night, I think I’ve just about converted to being a fan–but just about.
Wallace (Justin Long) is a massively popular podcaster (as massively popular as podcasters can get) in the states dedicated to showcasing and commenting on weirdness and wackiness on the air, along with co-podcaster and friend Teddy (Haley Joel Osment). After a gory and tragic–yet bizarre and improbable–video goes viral, Wallace decides to head to Canada to interview its star. However, when he gets there, his interview is no longer possible. Determined to make the most of his trip to the North, he follows a bathroom wall posting by a guy (Michael Parks) who says he’s got a lot of stories to tell, leading him somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Manitoba. Once he’s there, turns out, the guy’s obsessed with walruses and has a very deranged plan in his mind.
I loved the first half of this movie. The best way to describe it is like Red State with humour. In my mind, it could never work, but in execution, it’s brilliant. Comedy is obviously Kevin Smith’s genre and personally, I find this to be his best comedic work I’ve ever seen–actually it’s one of the funnier movies I’ve ever seen in general. It pushes lots of buttons and is completely committed to being ridiculous. Take for example the name of their podcast, The Not-See Party, which Wallace signs off with in a German accent, “Join the Not-See Party.” It’s so wrong yet almost impossible not to laugh at.
Smith also does a perfect job of recreating the unease of Red State as the creepy old man takes Wallace hostage in his house. It’s actually pretty terrifying. Wallace is immobilized and not allowed to access any form of communication as the old man clearly fabricates wild stories about why Wallace needs to stay there.
However, the second half of the film takes a really disgusting turn, more disgusting than anything I’ve ever seen on film. Let me illustrate. Last year, I saw Septic Man at Toronto After Dark. It’s a movie about a waste worker who goes into the sewage system to investigate the cause of water contamination. However, he becomes trapped down there, covered in human waste and toxic sludge. Eventually, the sludge starts to eat away at his skin and transforms him into a half-sludge man himself. He goes mad and finds happiness in his literal shitty life, living and breathing shit in bliss. I don’t need to tell you, but it’s DISGUSTING. That said, there are scenes in Tusk that are even more disgusting. I don’t know if it was a combination the empty stomach I had, but there moments that I truly felt like I wanted to throw up.
So, with two components that I loved–the horror and the humour–and one that revolted me–the disgustingness–I wasn’t sure how I really felt about this movie. However, after the movie, Kevin Smith came out for a Q&A. What really stood out was his genuine love of Canada. This is the first movie in his True North Trilogy–he’s got two more Canada-based movies on the way. He’s the guy who made Degrassi cool again, if you remember. And actually, looking at Tusk the jokes he makes about Canada aren’t the jokes Americans make about Canada; they’re the jokes Canadians make about themselves. They’re so hyperbolic and fill with Canadian in-jokes. At times, they’re even jokes about Americans disguised as jokes about Canadians. I don’t know why he does it or what made him fall in love with Canada, but if anyone’s truly an honorary Canadian, it’s Kevin Smith. And whether or not I enjoyed Tusk as much as Red State (I didn’t), I’m really looking forward to rest of the True North Trilogy.
Tusk premiered on Saturday Sept. 6. It also shows on Sunday, Sept. 7 at 9:45 p.m. at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema and Friday, Sept. 12 at 3:45 p.m. at Scotiabank Theatre.