written and directed by Kevin Smith
story by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
starring: Michael Parks as Howard Howe, Justin Long as Wallace Bryton, Haley Joel Osment as Teddy Craft, Genesis Rodriguez as Ally Leon.
Written and directed by the same guy that once did incredibly vulgar, dialogue heavy comedy films that delighted scores of gen x’ers, this marks Kevin Smith’s second foray into the horror genre. Tusk is a deeply philosophical film that attempts to answer life’s most pressing question: is man, indeed, a walrus at heart? Actually, it is not. This film is, quite literally, a cinematic joke. Tusk was initially conceived on the air during a SModcast episode in which Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier were discussing a bizarre online classified ad involving a man trading free lodging in exchange for the lodger dressing like a walrus (the ad was also a joke). Things start off with our intrepid hero, Wallace, and his cohort, Teddy, wrapping up the latest episode of their podcast. Wallace announces that the next day he will be heading to Canada to interview “Kill Bill Kid,” a suburban kid who sliced his leg off with a katana while doing his best Yojimbo impersonation. Upon arriving in Canada and discovering that his interview subject has killed himself, Wallace sets out to find a new story. He finds one in the form of an elderly former world traveler named Howard Howe. From here, Wallace’s seemingly uneventful trip to Canada takes turn for the sinister. As far as the actual presentation goes, if you’re a fan of B-grade horror flicks, you pretty much know what to expect. The acting is horrible. Everything is delivered in an over the top manner that makes William Shatner look like a brilliant thespian. The two worst offenders are Justin Long and Johnny Depp. Long’s dialog, even when not under duress, is delivered in a sort of over the top shouting manner. It renders his character, whose dialog already makes him come across as a complete douche, insufferable. It is hard not to be happy when his tongue is removed. Depp plays a small role as a French-Canadian detective. Outside of Monty Python’s “Quest for the Holy Grail,” it is difficult to find a worse French accent. I did find it humorous, although I couldn’t help but wonder if the accent was intentionally horrible, or a side effect of Depp’s spending so many years sinking into mediocrity alongside his frequent collaborator Tim Burton. In terms of characters, the one saving grace of this film is Howard Howe whose over the top soliloquies are at once unsettling and hilarious. None more so than his waxing nostalgic about his time he spent stranded on an island with his walrus companion, Mr. Tusk. The real piece de resistance in this movie, though, is the visual effects. The highly artificial looking scenes of Wallace’s severed leg, surgery, and battle between he and Howe wearing walrus suits made of “human skin” that is obviously latex or some sort of rubber are worth more than a chuckle. I could go on, but I honestly don’t feel like there is a need. Tusk is a train wreck, a sort of bastard love child of Young Van Helsing and Human Centipede, and like a train wreck, one can’t help but look. It may not be a multiple watcher, but if you can find it cheap, or pick it up online, it’s definitely worth the 105 minutes. But is it really better to be a walrus?