There are just some premises for films that sound so ridiculous that they might actually work, in some weird way. Now, one involving a madmen and a Walrus seems a bit peculiar, but it could be something interesting, right? At first, I thought this film had some sort-of Human Centipede vibe going on and, while I wasn’t completely wrong, thought that making this premise humorous would be hard. Fortunately, I was wrong about that and I absolutely love what the director did with this premise. If you want to know the origins of this film, listen here! http://smodcast.com/episodes/the-walrus-and-the-carpenter/
There are television hosts, radio hosts, and then there are podcast hosts. A podcast is like a radio show that’s not recorded live and then uploaded to the internet, so says Wallace Bryton (Justin Long), host of the ever-popular Not-See Party. Along with co-host Teddy (Haley Joel Osment), the two scour the internet for hilarious videos and then make fun of people on the podcast for a profit. After a young boy self-mutilates his leg as the “Kill Bill Kid”, Wallace travels up to Canada to meet the kid and interview him. When things don’t end up working out, Wallace is desperate for a story and comes across an odd advertisement in a bar. He calls a number, heads to a house, and can never be prepared for what came next.
Living in an elaborate mansion, Howard Howe (Michael Parks) is an older man confined to a chair and he has wondrous stories to tell. He drank with Hemingway, sailed the seven seas, and even made a best friend in his savior. Get this: his savior is a Walrus by the name of Mr. Tusk. Since parting with the Walrus, Howard hasn’t been the same and would do anything to get his friend back. So, as one does, Howard drugs Wallace and begins to set-up the process of turning him into a Walrus. Fearing for his life, Wallace manages to make a call out to Teddy and his girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) in hopes that they will rescue him. They manage to recruit the help of inspector Guy Lapointe (Guy Lapointe) and hope that they can find Wallace, before he turns full Walrus!
Tusk is quite a disturbingly entertaining time at the theaters, as horror and comedy find themselves mixing into an oddly fun combination. The horror here is far more deranged and messed up, as it certainly did its job in providing me with new nightmare material. More than anything, the origin of this film and the absurdity of this project is what really stands out to me. I’m just happy that everyone involved played along with the story and really found themselves inside these characters, no matter how far they’d have to go in these roles.
Michael Parks gives the performance of the film as a psychotic old man with some terrible tendencies. When he’s not actively trying to turn people into Walrus’, Parks is waxing poetry and is telling/selling these wondrous stories about his time at sea and in the war. In a matter of seconds, Parks can turn from a seemingly senile old man, into an intimidatingly scary psycho that wants to turn you into a Walrus. Embracing the belief that “at his heart, man is a Walrus”, Parks never lets up in his characters demented determination to recreate his old friend Mr. Tusk, which makes him even more frightening as he performs disgusting experiments.
Justin Long gets to play a bit out-of-type in this film, as he comes off as a total douchebag. He still has that fast-talking nature about him and now he gets to play around with some childish humor, but all of this works for him. He made me laugh quite a bit and he really made a grand impression on me in the latter half of the film. If the eyes are the window to the soul, I could only imagine what kind of soul Long had as he does masterful, saddening work with his eyes. Haley Joel Osment resurfaces in this film and while he doesn’t get to do much, he’s still enjoyable to watch and he elicits some giggles too. I don’t recognize Genesis Rodriguez, but wow can she act emotionally! She pulls out all the stops here and does some amazing work. As for Guy Lapointe, well, he’s a very talented actor that’s done some incredible work before. He’s actually one of the films best surprises.
Kevin Smith has a peculiar fan-base and a distinct sense of humor. Tusk is very far from Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jay & Silent Bob, as it’s more akin to his latest film Red State. The humor is constant in all of his films, but it’s gotten much darker as Smith doesn’t refrain from telling odd stories. More than that, Kevin Smith tells the stories that he AND his fans want. This film’s inception spawns from a Podcast episode that Smith recorded about a man trying to turn someone into a Walrus. They made a hashtag (#WalrusYes or #WalrusNo) and there was an audience for this film. I really admire and respect Smith for filming what he wants and making something for the people whom like him. He and his films aren’t for everyone, but his niche audience and film fans will find much to enjoy in Tusk.
I’m not entirely sure how I would categorize Tusk, as it’s not too funny and it’s not completely horror. The two blend into the genre of “Dark Comedy”, but this film spends just as much time exploring characters and having them recite long monologues, as it does being funny and horrifying. The stories, while intriguing and well-crafted, tend to drag on for a bit too long and the film loses some of its steam while it’s not focused on Walrus’. Like most of Smith’s films, there’s an excess of the F-word which I didn’t find offensive, more just unnecessary. Aside from being disturbed by the practical effects in this film, there’s not much else I took issue with.
Tusk is a film that works and plays better in your head, after you’ve seen it in its entirety. Once you know the full story and go full Walrus, you begin to appreciate this weird film that’s as enjoyable as it is messed-up. I’ve got to hand it to Kevin Smith for taking a ridiculous idea and turning it into something that would appease fans. The shockingly real practical effects will leave you tossing and turning late at night, as will the though of Parks trying to turn people into Walrus’. The Podcast element of this film pays homage to Smith’s SModcast and I loved the appreciation for it (totally not biased because I’ve podcasted before…). Tusk will not be for everyone, but there will be some who appreciate its zany story and unabashed approach to telling it.