Although I haven’t seen Tusk yet, I’m certain about one thing: it’s disgusting. Which is why it pains me so much to live in Europe, and not get to see it for some time. Kevin Smith making a truly disturbing pile of cinematic shock matter means that there may be some fight left in the guy, despite what some critics have been saying about his “tragic” turn from cinema to podcasts and comics (a turn which is only tragic, actually, to select dingus critics). And that means that we may be seeing more stupid brilliance from the likes of a quasi-genius who’s had it critically rough these past few years.
I remember the first time I saw Clerks. My first thought was, “I wish I could just hang out and talk trash like this all day,” a thought which was replaced immediately by, “I hope my dreams don’t die one day.” That feeling of an unknown future, mixed with disturbing stuff like sexing up a dead guy, made Smith’s first film so poignant and shockingly close to home (not literally, of course). Films like Mallrats and Dogma (and to an extent Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) were similarly ridiculous in their mixing of gross set pieces and heartfelt ponderings on the nature of everything, and that very juxtaposition made Smith such a cult favorite. His films, for a time, did and said things no one else would bother with, and it was wonderful.
Then Smith tried to make larger flicks, like Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which wasn’t that funny or enjoyable, and Cop Out, a singularly terrible film which landed Smith on a lot of critics’ naughty list. I can understand why the likes of Kevin Smith would take a step back from the major motion picture business and actually enjoy himself with comics, podcasts and hockey.
But now the beautifully disturbed mind that brought us the shit demon, a reverse donkey show, and every nonsense word that’s come out of Jason Mewes’ mouth, is back with a horror comedy funhouse of walrus insanity, and the cinema world should be reveling. Unlike the past few films in Smith’s repertoire, this gross-out Michael Parks roller coaster is (according to the critics who admitted enjoyment) a return to form for a man who loves to deeply unsettle his audience while making them giggle at the basest levels. The trailer even has a pretty obvious dick joke, right before body horror ensues.
Tusk is the first part in Smith’s True North Trilogy, an homage to the snowy wonderland that is Canada. The next in line is called Yoga Hosers, and features Johnny Depp as a Quebec ex-cop, a ridiculous role only Smith would foist onto the famous actor. My guess is Smith fell in love with Canada after hanging out with Harley Morenstein of Epic Meal Time a bunch–he guest-starred in an episode of the web series and was on Epic Meal Empire–or maybe that rekindled a love that was already there (the man does love hockey). Either way, this Canada trilogy puts Smith back in the helm of a stoned starship only he can command, and only Smith fans can understand, which definitely works in the director/writer/etc.’s favor.
Kevin Smith is an example of how the film industry can squash creativity in favor of pleasing the critics and playing nice with the ratings committees. After making Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen fall in lukewarm love, Smith mentioned in various media how weird it was that gore was far less taboo in film than sex, and that was just one comment in a series of complaints he’s had about the realm of film. Sometimes Smith sounds like he’s just letting out hot air with his commentary, but overall his case is important, because it reveals how limited the creative scope of Hollywood often is, and how being honest can work against you.
However, after some iffy years, it’s good to see the master of gross humor back in the filmmaking chair, especially seeing as he’s making films he wants to make, without caring if people like them or are forever disturbed by them (or a healthy mix of the two). In a way, he’s kinda like the Joss Whedon of sublime garbage, and the industry, and audiences everywhere, would be remiss if the heavy hitters of Hollywood and cinema completely alienated one of the few directors whose willing to be as honest and nasty as the rest of us wish we could be. About walruses.