Blu-ray Review: Tusk

TuskBluSTUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Kevin Smith | CAST: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Ralph Garman, Haley Morenstein
RELEASE DATE: 12/30/2014 | PRICE: Blu-ray $24.99, DVD $19.98
BONUSES: director commentary. deleted scenes, featurettes, original podcast, more
SPECS: R | 104 min. | Horror | 2.40:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video  | Overall 

 

The first feature film inspired by a podcast – a hypothetical discussion of a very real “live-in wanted ad” on Kevin Smith’s own SModcast – Smith’s Tusk is a deeply disturbing and twitch-inducing look at obsession run amok.

When professional podcaster Wallace (Justin Long, Going the Distance) goes into rural Manitoba in search of a great interview, he finds Howard Howe (Michael Parks, Django Unchained) an old adventurer longing for a walrus companion. What ensues is predictable but no less horrific, and in the accompanying extras Smith gives kudos to the costume and makeup crew for bringing that horror to life in a way that the squeamish won’t easily abide. Even writing this, I get the chills. The movie is populated by bits of dialogue and small details that have been topics on the SModcast – an ongoing wink to the director’s fans – but for most viewers, this one included, it will all be refreshingly original.

Tusk2Tusk makes great use of actors who are seldom seen or are not really actors at all, like Haley Joel Osment (Home of the Giants, The Sixth Sense) as Wallace’s podcasting partner, and the “Epic Meal Guy,” Harley Morenstein, as a hirsute, hockey-loving border officer. Smith also blatantly pokes fun at all things Canada in this first of a planned North-of-the-border trilogy (Yoga Hosers, the second entry, is due in 2015).

The Blu-ray disc, which looks and sounds terrific, is well-appointed with more than a dozen behind-the-scenes featurettes, most of which were also created for the SModcast. Unfortunately, the lack of a Play All option makes viewing the short segments a bit tedious. Smith introduces two deleted scenes which involve some animated flashbacks, one of which expands upon Howe’s tragic background. We also get the original podcast that birthed the idea, and a 24-minute feature called “20 Years to Tusk” in which the hockey jersey-loving director explains not only the genesis of this movie but his journey in filmmaking in general, and how he came to this project after settling into a life as a podcaster and producer of AMC’s popular TV show Comic Book Men.

Indeed, one gets the sense from Smith’s running commentary that he is pretty gleeful about this film. He’s quick to admit that although it never took off in theaters – “this is a midnight film, at best” – it lives on home video, where people will watch it, say “never again,” then find themselves popping it back in for a few particularly impressive scenes.

In this regard, I liken Tusk to Seven. There are things in this movie that you can never un-see, but, like the climactic severed-head scene in the desert in David Fincher’s classic, you’re drawn to them. Or at least you’ll remember them long after you have any right to remember anything from a “midnight” horror film.

 

 

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About Gary

Gary Frisch has been contributing laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray reviews to Video Business magazine, Home Theater Magazine, Home Theater Buyer’s Guide, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater and the DVD Guide for more than 14 years. He still has a collection of more than 40 laserdiscs, along with a working auto-reverse LD player, but thinks Blu-ray is da bomb and anxiously awaits the original Star Wars trilogy so he can buy it for the fifth time.