I’m a big fan of writer/director Kevin Smith and so it came as some surprise that two of his films had gone unnoticed by me. I found out about them when Smith mentioned them during an introduction to Comic Book Men a TV show available on Amazon Prime featuring the folks who work at his comic book store Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. If you have even a passing interest in comic books then it’s a great show, but I’m not here today to talk about that. I’m here to talk about those two films namely Tusk and Yoga Hosers.
If you know Kevin Smith’s work it should come as no surprise to find that the two movies are interconnected not only by their cast members but also the setting and some repeat characters – sadly we’re in the wrong neck of the woods (Canada) for Jay and Silent Bob to make an appearance, but there’s plenty to like in both films, not least a fun character portrayal from Johnny Depp – but more about that in a bit.
Tusk (2014) is a very dark comedy body modification horror in which Michael Parks (who had a great outing as Cooper in Smith’s Red State) plays Howard Howe a psychotic older-timer who lures Justin Long’s character to his twisted tusk-based fate with the promise of tall tales. Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers) plays Wallace Bryton an arrogant American podcaster who travels to meet an unlucky YouTube star who accidentally cut off his leg reenacting samurai sword moves from the film Kill Bill. The Kill Bill Kid isn’t available for interview so Bryton, clutching at straws, finds a notice on a board in a bar and follows its directions to a deserted house in the middle of nowhere.
Haley Joel Osment (the kid from Sixth Sense all growed up) plays Teddy, Bryton’s Not See Party podcast sidekick who is also having a secret affair with Ally Bryton’s girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez – a new face to me) when Bryton is out of town. The premise of the podcast being that Bryton comes back from his adventures and describes to Teddy what he has not seen. There’s a bit of fun around the name Not See Party sounding like the Nazi Party and this might, given the storyline to Smith’s next film, be some kind of fun foreshadowing for Yoga Hosers.
When Bryton doesn’t report back in after a few days, Teddy and Ally report him as a missing person and travel up to Canada to try and find him. When they do they cross tracks with serial killer investigator Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp). Lapointe is a French-Canadian oddball who reminded me rather of a Mike Myers character from one of his Austin Powers films. In this film he has a distinct mole on his right cheek – perhaps why I was reminded of the Austin Powers films.
Ralph Garman (probably best known if at all for his various voice acting gigs on American comedy shows such as Family Guy and Robot Chicken) plays a police detective and obviously impressed Smith enough to give him a much bigger part in Yoga Hosers.
Continuing Smith’s obsession with convenience store clerks, Harley Quinn Smith (his daughter) plays Girl Clerk #1 and Johnny Depp’s daughter with Vanessa Paradis Lily-Rose Depp plays Girl Clerk #2. There can be no confusion over whose daughter is whose tbh. It’s a couple of fun cameos, including the obligatory joke about the way Canadian’s pronounce ‘about’ (as ‘aboot’), which you might think little of while you watch the film but obviously got Smith thinking about future projects.
The cameos don’t stop there. Harley Morenstein co-creator of YouTube’s Epic Meal Time channel plays a border agent who has little time for Bryton’s attitude as he comes through passport control and gives him a few pointers about how to get along with Canadians – first rule is not to admit you don’t like ice hockey! And Jennifer Schwalbach Smith (Kevin Smith’s wife and star of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) has a cameo as a burger bar waitress.
The story of Tusk is a rather straightforward genre piece and while the special makeup effects are grotesque it’s very hard to take them seriously. I was rather confused as to when I should be laughing or indeed if I should be laughing at all. Bryton’s first disfigurement sees him lose a leg in a kind of poetic justice since he was so unsympathetic toward the Kill Bill Kid’s plight. Then the body modification is introduced and the final creature is revealed to be a rather pathetic patchwork walrus. It gets major points for bizarreness but loses marks for believability.
It’s a nicely shot and fun film, but is perhaps the weaker offering of the two mentioned here simply because of the laughable outcome and the fact that if it is meant to be a comedy then there’s too few real laughs to be had. the story seems to have its feet in two camps – straight horror and comedy horror and doesn’t quite hit the mark for either genre as a result.
In comparison Yoga Hosers (2016) is much easier to pigeon hole, as a Kevin Smith comedy, and that’s perhaps why I waited until Siggy could watch it with me – she’s also a huge Depp fan and is always bemoaning the fact he split up with Vanessa Paradis.
The convenience store clerks are back and this time they have names, well the same name; Colleen Collette (Depp) and Colleen McKenzie (Smith). The store is the same Canadian store as before, some of the customers are the same and there’s a neat newspaper cutting reference early on to Tusk. Targetted by a satanic serial killer duo – very much in the vain of the Scream films – the two clerks soon realise that there is a perhaps a greater evil at work in the very depths of their store. Harley Morenstein is also back, this time playing ‘toilet paper man’ but he doesn’t last long – being the first victim of what we learn to call The Bratzis.
The Bratzis are a pointed helmeted clone army (played by Kevin Smith himself) whose development is cut short by the Colleen’s accidentally and unknowingly cutting the power to their incubators. They are German sausage-based lifeforms stuffed with sauerkraut created by evil Nazi scientist Andronicus Arcane who also has a nice line in celebrity voice mimicry. Arcane is a follower of Canadian Nazi Adrien Arcand (so named probably solely so Smith could write in a Rocky joke) played by Haley Joel Osment. The Not See Party jokes from the previous film now seem to be more than silly ‘did I hear you right’ jokes.
Johnny Depp reprises his role as Guy Lapointe, this time helping the Colleens to fight the army of diminutive Bratzis in scenes much like a Gremlins film albeit with a lot of odd yoga positions and ice hockey sticks involved. Lapointe gets a lot more screen time helping the girls out when they are wrongly arrested by the police they called for help (the police dispatcher being played by Stan Lee – an unexpected and nice to see non-Marvel cameo) and his mole wanders interestingly about his face before seeming to multiply when the one visual gag ran out of steam.
Jennifer Schwalbach Smith reprises her role too, and she is McKenzie’s mum. And Jason Mewes (the eponymous Jay) gets a cameo as a kind-hearted cop who helps Lapointe get some time with the girls at the cop shop. There’s also some new faces in the form of Arrested Development‘s Tony Hale as Colleen Collette’s father, Russian Dolls’ Natasha Lyonne as his girlfriend, and last but not least Vanessa Paradis as the girls’ history teacher. Their PE teacher is played by Genesis Rodriguez and to round off the return of most main cast members from Tusk, Justin Long plays the girls’ passive-aggressive yoga guru.
The ‘wurst movie you’ve ever seen? I’ll let you be the judge, but if you’re geeky enough to have spotted the Clerks reference buried in the trailer then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Sure, if it had been titled Clerks III then there might have been a bit of an outcry, but it might be as close as you get in a twisted kind of way.
There’s probably a tonne of other easter eggs and cameos I didn’t spot, and I know there’s other cast members shared between the films, but I’m kind of pooped now. Until next time, that’s all folks…