Directors: Craig Ross Jr, Tammi Sutton, John Lechango
Starring: Trent Haaga, Angel Vargas, Victoria De Mare
Find it: Amazon
A funny thing happened as I worked my way through 88 Films' The Killjoy Collection - starting out with curiosity, turning to disappointment and then after filtering through various shades of boredom and resentment, I actually started to like the 99p franchise. I'd even go so far as to say that I was genuinely saddened when I finished the set, having no more left to see. Say, (producer) Charles Band, if you could hurry up with a fifth installment, I'd be highly appreciative.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy The Killjoy Collection, but is that a case of hate-watching or hipster irony at work? Honestly, I hope not. Sure, its first two entries are dire (some worse than others, eh Deliverance From Evil), but even that's preferable to the mass produced homogeneous nonsense (a hipster statement if ever there was one) cluttering cinemas everywhere with their 15 certificates and found footage bullshit. Killjoy, at least, tries. Its fourth entry is more original and interesting than most slasher movies could ever dare to be, slathered with with heaps of what it is that makes Full Moon great. That's the same reason I enjoy Jason Goes to Hell, Freddy's Dead, I Know Who Killed Me and The Wicker Man remake - I'll take an interesting failure over bland 'will this do?' coasting always and forever.
Also, it gives us Punchy the Hobo Clown, which I'll take over any of Pinhead's cenobites, anytime. The box set comes loaded with an appropriate amount of special features; that is to say, barely any. After all, this sort of thing is best in small doses. With two films per disc, it's a sparse release, but one that looks good on your shelf nevertheless. I'll probably never watch any of them again, but I'll be keeping hold of it, just, y'know, in case.
Anyhow, without further ado, the reviews. The Killjoy digest, if you will. Follow the links for the words:
Killjoy - In which I liken Killjoy to Oz and The Wire.
Killjoy 2: Deliverance From Evil - Bleeding clowns.
Killjoy 3 - Killjoy: with production values!
Killjoy Goes to Hell - The courtroom drama one.
Adding up that time I spent watching Killjoy and writing about Killjoy, that's at least ten hours this week I've spent thinking about Killjoy. I... I honestly don't know how to feel about that.
Director: John Lechago (2012)
Starring: Trent Haaga, Victoria De Mare, Al Burke
Find it: IMDB
Freddy died, Leprechaun river danced himself to da hood (and space), Jason went to Hell; vengeance demon Killjoy follows in the latter's footsteps and heads off to Hell - being on trial there for letting a victim (the previous film's Jessica Whitaker) get away. Well, they couldn't send him off to da hood, since that's where he started out.
As the strongest elements of the first three (!) Killjoy movies were the makeup and nightmare sequences, it makes sense that Killjoy Goes to Hell should make those things its focus. And so a large part of the movie is actually set in Hell (which not even Jason Voorhees could muster), with a bounty of demons like Killjoy and his f(r)iends. Say what you will about the franchise, but it's a bold move to make your fourth entry in the series a courtroom drama, complete with all of the trappings. Not even A Nightmare on Elm Street went there, and Freddy Krueger: Child Murderer on Trial would have made a fantastic prequel to the series.
While the budget doesn't exactly stretch to Dante's Inferno, some adorably cheap CGI and wobbly, fluorescent sets do the job well enough. Even better, Punchy, Freakshow and Batty Boo all return too. This is punctuated with scenes set in the institution where Sandie (Whitaker) is under investigation for Killjoy's crimes. Here we find employed psychiatrists and professional police officers treating her story like a thing that could actually happen and not being fired instantly. It's just a shame that, in a role that doesn't require her to do much more than laugh, the filmmakers couldn't have found an actress capable of laughing even half-convincingly.
The upward trajectory continues. The makeup and special effects are good, Punchy the Hobo Clown gets plenty of screen time (his carny speak is particularly great) and there's a little character work going on in Killjoy and Batty's interactions. Even Haaga is less annoying than usual here, finally settling into the role. If Killjoy 3 was tolerable, his going to Hell is actually, genuinely... well, not good exactly, but it's definitely something. A slasher movie cum courtroom drama set in Hell, it's certainly original, I'll give it that.
Director: John Lechago (2010)
Starring: Trent Haaga, Victoria De Mare, Al Burke
Find it: IMDB
It's Killjoy - but with production values! "Here," says producer Charles Band to the franchise, "buy yourself something nice," handing them more than a tenner for this sequel. "You have to put white people in this one, though." And so Killjoy returns, transformed (from whatever it was before) into your more traditional, slick American slasher film. His victims this time are a student house full of kids who look like either Ashton Kutcher or Anna Kendrick, plus obligatory black friend.
This time, however, Killjoy has brought buddies. You get not one but four killer clowns for your buck, in the shape of Batty Boop (De Mare), Punchy the Hobo Clown (Burke) and Freakshow the Mime (Tai Chan Ngo), who look pretty great and have fairly amusing names. Frustrated by not having anyone to kill, the clowns decide to bring the mountain to Mohammed by sending them a magic mirror, kidnapping the kids while they watch a Puppetmaster sequel.
Killjoy has always had more of a Freddy Krueger vibe to him than a Pennywise one, and this three-quel finally goes all the way with its nightmare-like fantasy sequences and wisecracking villain. There's even a sequence in which one of the kids' bodies lies, struggling on the floor while his mind is murdered in a dream world. Unfortunately, Haaga is more Jim Carrey as The Mask than Robert Englund as Krueger, coming across more as annoying than scary. Even Freddy's Dead era Englund knew when to dial it back. Trent Haaga has no such restraint, fart gags and all. His buddies fare better - mostly because two of them know when to keep their mouth shut and Batty Boo isn't in it enough to irritate quite so much. The mime, meanwhile, is legitimately terrifying. If only Killjoy himself had been so silent.
Director: Tammi Sutton (2002)
Starring: Trent Haaga, Charles Austin, Debbie Rochon
Find it: IMDB
The only reason this sequel exists is because people, for
With that in mind, Killjoy 2 is a thing that actually exists, totally because of artistic merit and not simply because clowns are popular whether they're any good or not (usually the bleeding latter). Trent Haaga takes on the greasepaint and gloves this time, stepping into the mighty big shoes of Angel Vargas. While Haaga has found cult acclaim as the killer klown of the piece, his is a much less entertaining performance than the one Vargas gives. Even worse, there appears to be less of it, with most of our time spent with a gang of cops and their community service detainees (IMDb lists them as 'juvenile delinquents', but they look at least thirty years apiece, so I'm not perpetuating that nonsense) taking off to the county (hence the tenuous 'deliverance' in the title) where they run into killer clown Killjoy.
Just a guess, but this sequel is one you probably won't hear mentioned when Women in Horror Month rolls around. Saddled with a bad cast and incomprehensible story, director Tammi Sutton struggles to elevate the material but winds up producing something even worse than the film which preceded it. Killjoy himself looks horrible, like a really bad Buffy the Vampire Slayer villain (crossed with something Mighty Boosh), remarkable only for a decent face melting scene and a slight increase in the onscreen action. At least it has this though, which almost redeems the whole thing.
With one song, the £6.99 I spent on this box set is justified. The rest of it, I could have done without.
Director: Craig Ross Jr. (2000)
Starring: Angel Vargas, Vera Yell, Lee Marks
Find it: IMDB
After years of seeing Killjoy bothering the shelves of my local Poundland and 99p Store outlets, I finally chanced my arm and picked the bastard up, in the form of HMV's exclusive (although you can less-than-exclusively buy it on Amazon) 4 film set containing the movie and its sequel. With the set costing me £6.99, that equates to roughly £1.75 per film. That's a bargain by anyone's maths, right? Right? Um, guys?
Watching the title credits roll, there's that familiar feeling of watching a no-budget nightmare unfold before your very eyes. There's the dodgy music, the even dodgier, apparently thrown-together credits, and the very dodgiest grime of a camera lens that you could probably buy on eBay these days for less than a tenner. Everything about Killjoy screams 'we have no money'. That said, early episodes of The Wire and Oz also happen to have the same sheen of penniless-ness about them, so you shouldn't disregard these things entirely. I should have guessed from the DVD case that looks like a 90s era video game. And, to be fair to director Craig Ross Jr. and the folks at Full Moon, Killjoy looks pretty great. If the entirety of their budget went on that Killjoy get-up, one has to commend them for being wise with their pennies.
Everything else makes me think I was overcharged for this £6.99 box set. While there's nothing out-and-out terrible here, we do spend the entirety of our time following around a gang of, well, gangbangers who make the criminals of The Wire look like upstanding members of the community by comparison (although one of them was Idris Elba,so maybe that's a tad unfair). When they murder a poor nerd obsessed with a girlfriend, so demon clown Killjoy (a superb Vargas) comes to claim revenge on his behalf. Alas, with all the money spent on the make-up, this vengeance amounts to little more than an ice cream van, warehouse, some cardboard boxes and a bit of green CGI. There's death for everyone, but none that you'll actually remember. Somehow, though, it managed not just one but three sequels. If the law of diminishing returns applies here, poor Killjoy is fucked.
While not as bad as its 99 pence reputation might suggest, it's hard to recommend Killjoy for much beyond an entertaining bad guy performance and its entirely black cast (wasted on such nonsense). If nothing else, it's proof that non-white people can have awful horror movies too.
Next: Killjoy 2.
Director: Jordan Barker (2014)
Starring: Katharine Isabelle, Robin Dunne, Peter DaCunha
Find it: IMDB
One day, Katharine Isabelle will make a horror film worthy of her talents, living up to the mighty Ginger Snaps. Until then, there's Torment. A dour, drab, donkey punch of a movie, it wastes its good cast and strong concept in a dull re-do of You're Next, minus the wit or inventiveness. It does have serial killers in animal masks though, which is right on my money every time.
Isabelle and Dunne play a recently married couple, heading off to his holiday home in the country for a little family time. Things are complicated by two things: his son (from a previous marriage, with a dead wife) being a twat to his new mother, and a home invasion visited upon them by a cult of mask wearing loonies set on stealing said twat away from his family. The first is easily worked around (via a great conversation in which daddy tells his son that, if you're lucky, mummies die, and sometimes you get two). The second: not so much.
You know the ritual: an awkward road trip, a creaky home, missing neighbours, friendly local cop (hello Stephen McHattie) and ominous signs. Little Liam goes missing in the middle of the night and his handily oversized teddies are found beheaded in the garden. Next thing you know, ma and pa are beset by the aggressors, who come at them with axes, rifles, various torture implements and useless bondage. First to free herself, Sarah (Isabelle) must battle to stay alive and rescue the wee rat getting in the way of her and a happy marriage. This she does with considerably less competency than we may have been used to of late: forget the kick-assery of Sharni Vinson, Pollyanna McIntosh (White Settlers) or Wrenn Schmidt (Preservation) Isabelle gets to be about as passive as they come here. There's a time and a place for that sort of retro Scream Queenery, but that time is usually the 1970s and the place is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Halloween. Cynical haters of nice people winning against the odds rest assured: any victories that might occur in Torment are purely Pyrrhic.
Still, there's enough at play here to keep the thing afloat for its duration. The bad guys look pretty great, in a grubby, hillbilly kind of way, while its atmosphere is similarly down-and-dirty. The story nips along at a fine pace, being over before one has time to really gripe about it, and Isabelle is likeable as ever as the female lead. It's a better use of her time than the inexplicable See No Evil 2, but only barely. Torment does just the bare minimum to stay out of completely forgettable territory; it's not quite a Mickey Mouse operation, but straddles the line.
(Sorry, I already used my 'torment' joke on the other one).
Director: Pat Holden (2012)
Starring: Kate Ashfield, Tasha Connor, Steven Waddington
Find it: IMDB
The true story of England's most prolific poltergeist haunting, except for the bit where it was debunked and proven not to have happened. Understandably, no-one mentions that part. Myself, I would have put it just before the end credits, like a big 'fuck you' to the audience, which is why I am not a filmmaker.
Whether it happened or not (it didn't), When the Lights Went Out tells the story of one family's torment at the (invisible) hands of a malevolent spirit living in their new home. As it takes a shine to daughter Sally (Connor) Mum (Ashfield) and Dad (Waddington) must do everything they can to survive on a working-class budget. Which seems to consist mostly of thumping poor Sally around the chops whenever the ghost does anything wrong. Not in an abusive NSPCC kind of way, you understand, but in a working class parents of the 1970s manner that was apparently fine back then. Mind you, a lot of things were 'fine' back then, if you ask Rolf Harris or Jimmy Savile. Life on Mars could have been a very different television programme if Sam Tyler had waited for Operation Yewtree before being twatted by that car*. What I'm saying is that 1970s England was a fuck-awful time and place to be a child.
The best reason to watch When the Lights Went Out is for that depiction of retro England. A traditional haunted house movie set in 70s Yorkshire, it courts amusement by replaying hoary old spook cliches from a very British, working class perspective. There's something to be said for a horror film in which one of the main scare sequences is seeing a possessed slinky pop down the stairs towards our terrified heroine. Or poor Kate Ashfield's wallpapering mishap. As a result, a lot of the shocks fall flat and most of it is more comical than scary, but the unusal setup is appreciated. It looks great and is well-acted - particularly by its young leading lady.
Those hoping for genuine scares from When the Lights Went Out will be disappointed. It's unintentionally funny where it should have been scary and not even brave enough to do anything original with its debunked 'true' story. After watching I went straight to sleep last night, after the lights went out. It's not even spooky enough to warrant a second thought, let alone leaving the lights on.
*Note to self, send idea for Life on Mars sequel to BBC.
Director: Christopher Denham (2014)
Starring: Wrenn Schmidt, Pablo Schreiber, Aaron Staton
Find it: IMDB
Good, but I preferred it when it was Eden Lake. A couple and their brother (or in-law, depending on whose perspective you go by) and his dog (a dog, by any perspective) take off to the American woodlands to indulge in a little hunting. Squeamish at first, anesthesiologist Wit (Schmidt) is quick to change her tune when they are beset by murderous masked men and their rifles.
The main reason to stick with Preservation is for its performers - a hardy bunch who make it worth bearing with the cliched setup and action. As the wonderful Pollyanna McIntosh made the otherwise fairly forgettable White Prey, so Wrenn Schmidt's lead performance is the film's strongest asset. It's a great transformative role which leaves her almost unrecognisable by the time the end credits start rolling. Talking of unrecognisable: I watched this for over half an hour before I realised where I recognised that Pablo Schreiber fellow from:
As evidenced by my fetish for ex-LOST actors, one of my favourite things is seeing performers from beloved TV shows pop up in genre movies, so I was overjoyed to see Pornstache (sans pornstache) show his distinctively odd mug here. Everything else is by-the-numbers cliche counting and fairly predictable action. I'm willing to bet that the American bear trap industry makes more money from horror movie props than it does helping people actually trap bears. If I were writer/director Christopher Denham, I'd ask for my money back for his bear trap, though; one character emerges with little more than a slightly punctured foot after accidentally stepping on one. I doubt a bear would even notice that shit, let alone be trapped by it.
It perks up a little towards the end, but that's not enough to make Preservation feel anything other than utterly middling to half-decent. The only thing being preserved here (obvious joke) is an abundance of cliches.
Starring: Allison Miller, Zach Gilford, Sam Anderson
Find it: IMDB
The only thing more predictable than me whining about found footage movies is me watching a half-decent one and saying 'actually, that one was alright, y'know.' Devil's Due is actually alright (y'know), although I preferred it when it was called Rosemary's Baby, wasn't found footage and was a classic horror film.
Devil's Due is no classic, but at least it tries harder than a lot of found footage movies do these days. This it achieves by having a real plot, some variation in its gimmickry, and the good grace to not save all of its action for the last five minutes. If you must watch a found footage horror film about a couple expecting an evil baby, you'd be better off with the recent Delivery: The Beast Within, but you could do far worse than this.
Returning from honeymoon, a pair of cute young newlyweds are surprised by Samantha's unexpected pregnancy, coming in the wake of a night on the tiles neither of them can quite remember (like The Hangover, except with a cult and Satanic rape, probably). As the baby in Sam's belly grows, it becomes clear to worried hubby Zach that something isn't quite right - particularly when she starts punching out car windows, causing the local priest's stroke (an appreciated wee role for Bernard from off've LOST's Rose and Bernard) and chowing down on raw lamb in the supermarket. Not quite the sort of thing they cover in ante natal classes, then.
However, while Devil's Due is pretty good in places, it doesn't even attempt to justify its use of the found footage format. I can't think of a single reason why this should have been filmed the way it was, beyond that being what all the cool kids are doing these days.
As this sort of thing goes, Devil's Due is perfectly above average. It's short and sweet enough with just the right amount of variation preventing boredom from ever setting in. On occasions, it even reaches a V/H/S level of entertainment (the first one, that is - not the superior sequel, or the terrible third one) with a sky-high bit of carnage reminiscent of that first film's most memorable segment. It's no [REC], V/H/S 2 or Cannibal Holocaust (the gold standard of found footage) but Devil's Due is actually alright, y'know.
Director: Douglas Aarniokoski (2013)
Starring: Paz de la Huerta, Katrina Bowden, Kathleen Turner
Find it: IMDB
But not viewed in 3D, because fuck off am I watching anything that doesn't have piranhas or murderous miners in it in 3D. In Nurse, which is a popular thing that people wanted to see apparently, a murderous nurse spends her evenings offing adulterous bastard men, like some sort of kinky anti-cheating Punisher. Things get complicated when she befriends colleague Danni (Bowden), who doesn't look so kindly upon her man-murdering ways. Melodrama ensues... in 3D!
Part stylish thriller, part steamy European slasher, all Lionsgate, Nurse (3D!) takes a strong female cast, promising concept, excellent visuals and clever writing, then promptly wastes the lot of them. A terrible central performance and sub-Robert Rodriguez level directing make Nurse (3D!) one of the more irritating horror films I've ever seen... in 3D! Except not in 3D, because, you know, fuck off am I watching anything that doesn't have Judge Dredd in it in 3D. As the titular nurse, Paz de la Huerta makes the first half a chore to watch, her monotone line delivery and dull pout doing nothing for the character or the film. Compare this with Katharine Isabelle in American Mary, making all the difference in an otherwise bland and overhyped film. A decent lead performer like Isabelle could have earned Nurse at least an extra star. As it is, much of the film hangs on de la Huerta's performance, which all but kills it dead.
Bowden does a better job as doe-eyed Danni, shouldering the rest of the movie when evil Abby isn't around. Sadly, as Aarniokoski isn't particularly interested in much more than shooting her in various states of lingerie, that doesn't leave her with a great deal of material to play with. In a film concerned with murdering the hell out of cheating, sleazy men, Nurse spends an awful lot of time leering at Huerta and Bowden (in 3D!) rather than bothering to craft anything worthwhile. There are a few oiled male abdomens though, evening the score slightly. At least the film perks up in the last half hour - its scenes of bloodshed and carnage livening up the action with a great fight scene and some wonderful gore.
Good visuals and genuinely witty script aside, one can't help but feel that Nurse would have been better off in the hands of prime De Palma or Larry Cohen. Aarniokoski manages the gore and the nudity well enough, but everything else feels disappointingly flat. As a sedative, it's better than Night Nurse.
Director: Declan O' Brien (2014)
Starring: Ken Kirzinger, Jesse Hutch, Ben Hollingsworth
Find it: IMDB
Fun* fact, fact fans: Joy Ride 3's subtitle, 'Roadkill' was actually the UK title of the first film. I don't know what the second film was called because, frankly, I didn't even know it existed until literally two days ago. Even that was a deductive process, cleverly worked out due to the fact I was holding a film called Joy Ride 3 in my hands.
This will be one of the more flawed reviews I've ever written in that I can remember maybe three or four things about the film, mere hours after watching it. Say what you will about Joy Ride (Roadkill, if you live in early 2000s' England) - at least I remember watching it. This straight to DVD sequel tells a similar story, with angry trucker Rusty Nail (ex-Jason Voorhees Ken Kirzinger) on the trail of a gang of kids who've managed to piss him off somehow. Poor Rusty; dude just can't catch a break, with all three films being predicated on stupid kids somehow fucking with his shit. It's a wonder he ever manages to get any trucking done, with damn kids winding the poor bastard up all the time. Although, just a suggestion: if maybe he stopped using his CB radio as the trucker equivalent to saucydates.com, or whatever the kids these days are using to meet one night stands, maybe he'd get more work done.
The kids in question this time are a gang of pretty young things driving a souped up rally car to their next race. After getting on Rusty's bad side, the vengeful trucker sets about pursuing the lot of them across the desert, occasionally pausing to stop for a spot of torture or nastiness. Way to prove Jeremy Clarkson right about all truckers being assholes, asshole.
The specifics, sadly, are beyond me. While Joy Ride 3 is gorier, nastier and more vicious than the first film ever was, it's also completely unmemorable. Kirzinger may have the physical presence, but he lacks the gravitas and intensity of Ted Levine. The rest of the cast, while adequate, are as forgettable as the rest of the movie. It's essentially a low-budget, frequently nasty version of
* Not fun
Director: Jonathan Glazer (2013)
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay
Find it: IMDB
Say what you will about the Avengers, but they're a savvy bunch. Deftly mixing up their big blockbuster movies with relatively smaller indie pictures, the Marvel superheroes of today can be found avoiding typecasting in the likes of The Judge, Foxcatcher, Snowpiercer and - in the case of this Black Widow 'centric piece - Under the Skin.
In this classy version of Species, a mysterious alien takes the form of a beautiful human female, steals a van and sets about seducing and murdering men in the back of it. In an interesting twist, the alien's point of invasion is Glasgow, Scotland, and the form it takes is Scarlett Johansson, from off've The Avengers. If that's not distracting enough, Johansson speaks in a disturbingly good English accent, talking about things like Asda, Tesco, The Post Office and things you'd never normally hear Black Widow chatter about.
It's the sort of film which is so arty it doesn't need a story; instead, we follow The Female as she seeks out and seduces men along the streets of Glasgow, tempting them into the back of her van where, well, something happens, and they end up literally losing their skin. Keeping it from getting repetitive is the gonzo style of filmmaking (most of the characters being played by non-actors - fair play to them, gamely getting their kit off opposite Scarlett fucking Johansson on camera) and the haunting, hypnotic score which accompanies it all. It's pretentious, but manages it in a way that it works, like a Lars von Trier movie or Alan Moore comic.
It'll probably never get under one's skin, but this movie gave me a curious itch that I doubt no other will ever scratch in quite the same way. Although, you know, that could have just been hearing Black Widow talk about Tesco and Asda like they're places she'd ever actually visit. In that respect, it's no wonder Scarlett Johansson gives the perfect performance.
Director: James DeMonaco (2014)
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Kiele Sanchez
Find it: IMDB
"Oh goody! A sequel to The Purge!" said no-one who had ever seen The Purge. Yet here it is - the inevitable sequel to a bad film with good ideas but a flawed execution; a great cast and strong ideas are wasted on a dull story, uninspired visuals and a lack of wit and invention. There's not much more of the latter on display in Anarchy, but almost everything else is vastly improved by moving the fight outdoors.
It's Purge Night, and we follow three groups of people as they attempt to survive; a lovely young couple and their broken car, a mother and daughter forced outside after their home is destroyed, and a mysterious gunman seeking revenge for the death of his son. This final individual makes all the difference - injecting a shot of competency into a franchise which could have just had its poor protagonists running around like victims waiting to die at the hands of nasty gangbangers. Frank Grillo's 'Sergeant' effectively drops The Punisher into the world of The Purge, making it the best sequel to War Zone never made.
If The Purge was a slick redo of The Strangers and other such grimy home invasion movies, then Anarchy is more inspired by The Warriors and its ilk. The bad guys might look like reject goons from a Joel Schumacher Batman movie, but they're vastly preferable to the smug shit of the previous film. Michael Kenneth Williams shows up briefly, but I suspect they may be saving most of him for the inevitable sequel. Now that The Purge has one half-good film under its belt, it might just have a shot at that franchise it so desperately wants to be.
Still, for all the action and genuine awesomeness, it's entirely obvious that The Purge still doesn't have anything of note to say. It has a killer conceit, but the whole thing feels about as political as the latest Hunger Games (if not less). Now that the series is back on track, it would be nice if they could maybe work on the mechanics of it all some more. Keep the explosions and the gangs though; don't get me wrong.
Anarchy is a good second step after a faltering start. Where it goes from here is anyone's guess, but we shouldn't count this franchise out just yet. Still, I did spend most of the film trying to work out ways I could make a hypothetical Purge work for me without getting killed in the process, so it's not as though it held my attention for, like, the whole time.
Director: Kevin Smith (2014)
Starring: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment
Find it: IMDB
Either wonderful or dreadful. I honestly couldn't say which. I know, as a professional (shut up) film critic (no, shut up, I am) that's not what you wanted to hear, but I really am torn asunder by Kevin Smith's Tusk. Spoilers follow, because this is not a movie I would want to discuss without talking about Long's transformation (that's really not a spoiler), the ending or Johnny Depp.
Justin Long plays annoying podcast jockey Wallace Bryton, travelling to Canada alone in search of material for his 'Not-See Party' show, co-hosted by best friend Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment). There he meets Creepy Old Man Howard Howe (Parks) whose advertisement he finds in a bar toilet. Travelling to the old man's house on the promise of interesting stories, Wallace is drugged and incapacitated, Howard's intention being to turn the poor fellow into, well, a walrus.
If you thought that The Human Centipede would have been vastly improved by Justin Long squealing like an idiot in a rubber walrus suit while Johnny Depp eats fast food in a prosthetic nose while doing a terrible French-Canadian accent, then, boy, is Tusk the film for you. To be fair, that does actually sound better than The Human Centipede. Its a film ruled by its tone deaf performances - with Long going terribly broad while his co-stars go for earnestness (Haley Joel and Genesis Rodriguez), sinister ham (Parks) and whatever the fuck it is Johnny Depp is doing. There's no sense of coherence to Tusk, from its pacing to its tone. It feels thrown together by a director high on weed and his own fans - as though Smith couldn't stop laughing at his own joke for long enough to reign his actors in.
In a movie in which Justin Long is transformed into a walrus, it's to Smith's testament that there are far odder things going on elsewhere. I refer, of course, to a ten minute conversation between Parks and Depp in which the former pretends to be mentally handicapped and the latter probably is. I'm not quite sure what Johnny Depp is playing at here, but at least it's preferable to the Captain Jack Sparrow act he's been doing in almost every single thing else that isn't animated or his 21 Jump Street cameo (yes, we all saw you doing the Captain Jack dance in The Tourist, don't deny it) since Pirates of the Carribean.
As for the walrus suit? Far be it from me to criticise Mr. Howe's hard work, but it doesn't even make sense, physically or logistically. At least it gets rid of Long's stupid moustache though, and mostly shuts him up. It's far too well-lit in a film which is otherwise gorgeous and Gothic-looking - as impossible to take seriously as Johnny Depp's fake nose and Boss Eye. Still, it is effective enough during the film's big (surprisingly bombastic) action climax and weirdly emotional end.
If this review makes it sound as though I hated Tusk, I apologise. No, I loved it - I loved it for the things it does well and I loved it even more for the things it does badly. In a modern horror scene awash with shitty found footage nightmares, brainless remakes and straight to DVD zombie bollocks, Tusk at least tries to be original. Look, during the endlessly long days working retail, my stupid buddies and I used to brainstorm ideas for the totally hilarious and awesome movies we'd one day make, outside of our endlessly long retail jobs (hello time travel blaxploitation Black the Ripper); Tusk is the equivalent of that - a daft story, dreamed up by a silly pothead and his silly friends, given a (relatively) decent budget and (relatively) massive release. Kevin Smith is living the dream. You gotta respect that. #TuskYes? #TuskFuckYeah