Tusk is one of the weirdest films I have ever seen. When mentioning the basic set up to the film to anyone I’d get the same “What!?” and instant peak of interest. “It’s a film about a guy who gets turned into a human walrus.” A concept that seems absolutely baffling that it alone would make anyone want to see the film. Tusk knows its ridiclous, but it isnt a spoof. It looks to be a cult classic.
Director: Kevin Smith
Staring: Justin Long/Michael Parks/Haley Joel Osment/Génesis Rodríguez/Johnny Depp
Run Time: 102 Minutes
Release Date: Out Now (US)/5th December 14 (Europe)
Tusk is the story of Wallace (Justin Long); a podcaster who travels to meet interesting people and then head back home to his podcast partner and best friend Teddy (Haley Joel Osment),who he describes his experiences in comedic ways for the show. During a trip to Canada to visit a podcast potential, Wallace is annoyed to find out the appointment is cancelled but luck seems to be on his side as he finds an intriguing lodger advertisement. With the potential of another interesting story, Wallace sets off to meet his subject.
Wallace then meets Howard Howe (Michael Parks); an old man all alone in his giant house, who has more than company on his mind – he wants an answer to his life-long question… “Is a man truly a walrus at heart?”
Now I feel that a little background is needed here – Kevin Smith is an indie legend whose prime filmmaking career was back in the 90s, with classics such as Clerks and Chasing Amy. After a few rough transitions into more serious territory Smith had resorted to retiring his filmmaking and focusing on his growing podcast empire SModCo. During episode 259 of his show Smodcast (Titled, The Walrus & the Carpenter), Kevin read out a Gumtree prank advertisement asking for a lodger who could live free of rent as long as he could dress up like a walrus a couple of hours each day. Kevin was so taken by the idea that he spent the whole podcast with his friend and former producer Scott Mosier, thinking up a horror story. It’s an interesting listen and also a funny one.
I really enjoyed the first half of Tusk, the introduction of Wallace, a crude podcaster. The witty fun dialogue Smith is known for shines through. The highlight of the film and show stealer is the brilliant Michael Parks as Howard Howe, who walks across the tight rope of cuddly and sympathetic to completely insane so majestically he commands your attention. During a lengthy conversation with Wallace (prior to drugging him) we learn about how Howard spent six months alone on an island after a shipwreck when he was younger, with his saviour and most trusted friend, a walrus, who he called Mr Tusk. Howard see’s mankind as an evil force and wants to convert one man into a new Mr Tusk.
I loved the ridiculousness of Tusk, It’s played completely straight the whole time. With the reveal of Justin Long in the disgusting Walrus suit I couldn’t help but laugh in the theatre. Knowing the journey from the start with Smith it was great to see all what he mentioned in the podcast be up there on the big screen. This is also a detriment, as I was in on the joke. I knew Kevin the whole time was laughing making this film but for people who don’t know the whole backstory may feel lost. I’m not really sure who Tusk is meant to be appeal for other than hardcore Smith fans. It isn’t really funny enough for the average comedy goer who enjoys films like Shaun of the Dead. That doesn’t mean it is a horror movie either, lacking any real scares.
As a Kevin Smith fan I can confidently say it is his best shot film. Famous for never moving the camera, Tusk has smooth tracking and pan shots which help add to spookiness of some scenes. Smith is known for his dialogue and here he doesn’t disappoint. With a lengthy somewhat comedic discussion between Wallace and Howard being the highlight scene of the film. Both Justin Long and Michael play well of each other. Though the Smith sense of pacing maybe appreciated by his core audience I feel maybe the average viewer will be bored at some points.
While I did love the first half of the film, the second is really where the issues of the film come through. Wallace’s Girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) and Teddy begin to search for Wallace and gain assistance from an inspector in search of Howard Howe played by a very well known actor who I shan’t spoil here. These sections go on far too long and apart from an entertaining flashback, lack tension or comedy. I wanted to get back to the human walrus ridiculousness and when we finally do the ending comes up way to soon resulting in an unsatisfactory conclusion.
I’m a huge fan of Kevin Smith. His previous works have had a huge influence on me as a aspiring filmmaker. While I appreciate Tusk and do fully enjoy it I can’t whole heartily recommend to any movie goer. It may make you chuckle here and there. It certainly will shock you, but stick with you? That is up to viewer and how familiar they are with Smith.
- Michael Parks of course is fantastic
- Ridiculous, over the top imagery
- That same witty Kevin Smith dialogue that we keep coming back for
- Though advertised as a horror, this really felt like it needed a larger comedy element
- Slow mid-point with pacing problems
- No matter how bonkers the film’s end is, you can’t help but feel its creation was rushed