Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Horns vs. Tusk, two anatomically named comedy-dramas that deal with bizarre events of varying nature.
Premise Horns is a comedic dark-fantasy film that deals with a young man during the aftermath of his girlfriend’s mysterious death, and his subsequent tribulations of being accused of raping and murdering her. A year following her untimely death and eventually cleared of all charges—despite the media and public thinking otherwise—he one day awakens with freshly protruded horns on his head, unable to be hidden under his shaggy hair. And that’s not all—to make matters even more paranormal, the horns give him the ability to induce people into revealing their deepest and darkest secrets. Hilarity naturally ensues, and he, of course, uses these abilities to find the real killer.
Tusk is a bit further down the grotesque spectrum. Revolving around a podcaster, the dramedy-horror film takes place in the seemingly snoozy backwoods of Manitoba, as the young man travels to Canada to interview an old, enigmatic seafarer for a potential story. What should be an easy human-interest piece turns into anything but. He’s captured, held hostage and brutally tortured—both mentally and physically—as the seafarer slowly transforms him into his oceanic obsession: a walrus. The podcaster’s two friends, however, sense something is awry, and travel north with an ex-cop to help locate him. We enjoy a good bonkers film every now and then, but this is just a little too bizarre (and gory) to wrap our heads around; and it’ll certainly have far less widespread appeal. Advantage: Horns
Cast The leading man of Horns is no other than the lovely Daniel Radcliffe. A quintessential twenty-something leading man, Radcliffe puts on a faux American accent for the role, and possesses a good mix of dramatic and comedic judgment. Rounding out the cast is the talented Juno Temple (faux accent alert, round deux!) as the murdered girlfriend, as well as James Remar, Heather Graham and Max Minghella in supporting roles.
The quirkily adorable Justin Long, who’s stepping out of his usual romantic-comedy zone for the occasion, portrays Tusk‘s protagonist. The accomplished decades-spanning actor Michael Parks plays his psychotic adversary, while the now-grown-up Haley Joel Osment, Génesis Rodríguez, and everyone’s-favorite Johnny Depp round out the rest in smaller roles. Since the star power of the cast is rather equal on both sides, we’ll default to the leading man. In terms of overall box office success and fan-girl following, Radcliffe has the lead. Advantage: Horns
Director Frenchman Alexandre Aja is taking control of the director’s chair for Horns. An accomplished horror director, a sampling of Aja’s previous films include the critically and commercially successful The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors, and Piranha 3-D. We’re eager to see how he incorporates comic relief into the flick. Contrarily—and a bit surprisingly—Kevin Smith is directing Tusk. Yes, that Kevin Smith, the ultimate funnyman known primarily for his comedy films (such as the cult-classic Clerks) and goofy demeanor. Both directors are expanding out of their normal, comfortable oeuvre, and we like seeing chances being taken. But perhaps we’re a little bit more excited to see what Smith has to offer. Advantage: TuskTaglinesTaglines are arguably the most underrated component for a film’s public relations campaign. It has to be concise yet attention-grabbing, drawing a potential viewer in. Horns‘ tagline is pretty standard: “Love hurts like hell.” Cheeky, sure, but memorable, no. Tusk‘s, though, is really damn good: “A truly transformative tale.” Witty and sardonic, laced with morbid undertones, oh-so-very Kevin Smith. Count us in.Advantage: TuskOrigin StoryHorns has been adapted from the 2010 nonlinear narrative novel of the same name, written by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son). The novel was very well received (like father, like son) and was nominated for the illustrious Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel, honoring titles for dark fantasy and horror writing. The idea for Tusk, in true comedic fashion, came about during a podcast of SModcast, hosted by friends and collaborators Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier. The title was originally dubbed The Walrus and the Carpenter, and was about a man who lived completely rent-free after agreeing to constantly dress as a walrus for the pleasure of his homeowner. Discussion on social media evolved from there (#WalrusYes), and soon enough Tusk as we know it was born. As cute as the original idea was (may we suggest a short film?), there’s already a good and highly praised foundation for Horns that can’t be ignored.Advantage: Horns
The Verdict It’s doubtful that either film will break it big in the box office—they both fall victim to a small niche film market—but we just can’t help but be entranced by the prospect of a horn-laden, crime-solving Daniel Radcliffe causing mischief with his paranormal powers. Sound a bit familiar? Winner: Horns
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