Tusk (dir. Kevin Smith)
TUSK’s premise is almost too good to be true: A crazy Canadian entraps a douchey hipster and turns him into a walrus. Kevin Smith’s second entry square into the horror genre takes this premise and runs with it, and the end product is a campy, unapologetic film that is indeed about turning a hipster into a walrus.
This hipster in question is played by Justin Long. Having graduated past playing a Mac computer on commercials, he now takes his turn at playing Wallace, a Los Aneles podcaster who makes his money off of making fun of clumsy You Tubers. Though a series of flashbacks we see that Wallace is a pretty slimy guy. He treats his beautiful and loyal girlfriend like an accessory, and is obsessed with his new income and status. He makes the trek to Canada to interview the star of an online video which he makes famous, or rather infamous for the star’s lack of bodily coordination. When he shows up at the poor kid’s house to wring every last drop of exploitation out of him and discovers the kid has killed himself, Wallace’s only concern is finding the next target. Luckily he finds a hand written note pinned up to a local bar’s bulletin board advertising free room and board in exchange for light chores and an ear to hear an old man’s tales. Here is where it gets interesting.
The note was left by Howard Howe (Michael Parks in what might be my favorite performance off his, which says a lot), a retired mariner who lives far outside of any town. After a brief stop to get a giant soda and to further tease Canadians for being Canadian Wallace arrives at Howe’s home hoping to find the topic of his next podcast. Howe starts by humoring Wallace and telling him a few snippets of his adventures at sea, which are impressive. His encounters with Ernest Hemingway and being lost at sea lead Wallace to believe he has found a jackpot.
Parks really shines here and gleefully chews up the scenery while spinning these tales. In fact, his performance for the rest of the film is campy and lavish, but he thankfully manages to stop just shy of making it a farce. As fun as it is to watch the absurdity of Wallace and Howe’s predicament, it is a damn creepy horror film and their interactions toe the line between suspense and humor perfectly.
One performance that does miss a few notes, however, is Johnny Depp’s. Yup, though he is credited in the film as his character’s name, Guy Lapointe, Depp does have a fairly big part in TUSK. When it is apparent that Wallace has gone missing his girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) and co-podcaster (Haley Joel Osment, who grew up to be a fine actor) head to the great white north and team up with the only detective who can help them: Lapointe. Lapointe tells of his long history with Howe, who is Lapointe’s white whale of sorts. The flashbacks are funny enough, but far too much screen time is spent with Lapointe hamming it up. The joke of seeing Depp using a ridiculous accent while wearing a gigantic fake nose does not get funnier as times goes by, and the film would benefit with tighter editing on his scenes.
All while Lapointe and Wallace’s friends are searching for Wallace, Howe has been making quick work of transforming Wallace into a walrus. Body horror this gruesome may not have been widely released since HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, and TUSK gives that film healthy competition in terms of gore. A fellow critic at the screening actually dry heaved at certain scenes, and this is a man who watches movies for a living!
TUSK’s biggest strength is that it knows what the audience’s expectations are and it exceeds each of them. It is preposterous, disgusting, and hilarious. It is destined to be a classic, and was a hell of a lot of fun to watch.