I caught a couple of weird movies recently worth talking about. They seem to be relatively obscure, which surprises me given the talent involved. You’ll see what I mean further down. I’m going to try to keep my thoughts on the films spoiler free from here on.
What else do you call a movie based off an article featuring an advertisement where a homeowner would offer someone a free living situation if he/she agreed to dress as a walrus? Kevin Smith (Clerks, Dogma, Chasing Amy, etc.) and and his friend Scott Mosier discussed this in depth in the podcast, SModcast 259 The Walrus and The Carpenter. Smith eventually went on to write and direct a movie based the concept. There’s a whole story behind the film’s production that I’m skipping, as well as some discussion about making it part of a trilogy of movies. Who knows if or when that will happen. Despite featuring Johnny Depp in a supporting role, as well as Michael Parks, a slew of other veteran actors, and even Smith and Depp’s daughters, the movie was a bit of a critical flop and a box office bomb. As of writing this, the film has a 5.4 on IMDB and a 55 Metascore.
And I understand why it received such mediocre ratings. The film swerves you a bit. You’re expecting it to be a weird, silly, and dark comedy. But it just ends dark, really dark, and no amount of Michael Parks hamming it up with completely absurd dialog can brighten up the film. If you ever asked yourself what the Human Centipede would have been like if Kevin Smith wrote and directed it, Tusk is the answer.
I think the film might have been saved if, ironically, the effects were worse, i.e., more Power Rangers and less Event Horizon. The ending also strikes me as not being the original ending and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe if the movie were set a couple decades before people could make a living on podcasts, I’d forgive the apparent lack of modern medical intervention.
Check it out if you enjoy the occasional disturbing horror movie or if you want to see Smith doing something entirely different (sans his usual dialog style).
And now I’m asking myself what a Hellraiser reboot would be like if Smith wrote and directed it…
Gentlemen Broncos (2009)
Fifteen minutes into this film, I texted a friend my initial impression. I described it as Napoleon Dynamite on LSD, crack, and popcorn balls. I do not know what made suggest the latter. It felt right for some reason and by the end of the film, I discovered how right I was. Popcorn balls did make a cameo.
It all makes sense in a kind of weird way, because Jared Hess, the guy responsible for Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, wrote and directed this tale of a renowned pulp sci-fi writer stealing a young and aspiring sci-fi writer’s manuscript and releasing it to much success. The relatively short film is also inter-cut with campy (campier) depictions of major events from the stolen novel, Gentlemen Broncos. They’re generally the most enjoyable scenes in the movie, next to the scenes featuring Jemaine Clement’s depiction of the sci-fi guru, Chevalier.
Unlike Napoleon Dynamite, most of the characters in this movie are mean, manipulative, and disgusting. Pedro and Deb, these characters are not.
There’s a fair amount of toilet humor and a couple gross out scenes. It seems a scene or two was cut from the theatrical run, as a plot point comes out of nowhere in the third act. But, it does have a really sweet (nice, not cool) ending. It currently holds a 6.1 on IMDB and a 28 Metarating. I guess you can think of it as Hess’ Jennifer’s Body, another film by a new and talented writer trying too hard to be a cult followup to the last cult film the writer scripted.
I ordered the DVD for it today. I can empathize a little with the story’s protagonist, Benjamin (Michael Angarano), and I just enjoyed the sheer weirdness of it all.
My advice, watch this one with friends (and mixed drinks).
“Without a doubt, the best line I’ve ever written is this. ‘Referring to her neck, she squawked, this is not a wart! This is the chancellor of the galaxy! Now let us in!'” –Chevalier