By Rob Jefchak
Kevin Smith is a comedy genius, even those who find his dirty sense of humor tasteless can admit to that fact. However, lately he has been dabbling in darker movie materials by making horror films: his first outing in horror was “Red State” and now we have his second outing (and strangest film far) with “Tusk.” With a film as strange and unfamiliar as this one, compared to Smith’s previous work; I couldn't begin to imagine what I was in store for. The film follows Wallace Brighton (Justin Long), an obnoxious podcaster who makes a living out of making laughs off other people’s misery and flies off to Canada in order to get a new story for his podcast audience. Unfortunately the story literally dies and Wallace is left with nothing.
Until Wallace comes across a flyer for a seasoned ocean traveler named Howard Howe (Michael Parks) who wants to share his long life of adventures with anyone interested to hear them. Wallace meets up with Howard only to be drugged and captured by the strange old man who wishes to surgically alter Wallace into becoming a walrus and now Wallace’s girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) and best friend (Haley Joel Osment) are desperately trying to find Wallace before he loses his life and his humanity. Believe it or not, the concept from this film spins off from a weird true life story about a man offering room and board for free provided the tenant wears a walrus costume while he/she stays there.
It’s a very unusual and funny anecdote that certainly makes for good conversation fodder. However, “Tusk”; despite its best efforts to BE funny never truly succeeds and instead just turns into a dark, twisted, mangled mess of nausea and nightmares that even the strongest of stomachs cannot properly digest. Everything about this film screams pet project: this is a personal dream project that only can be accomplished once the director is at a point where he/she is famous enough that they can do whatever they want and still not lose their careers. Much like Zack Snyder’s bizarrely trippy flop “Sucker Punch”, “Tusk” is a movie that only Kevin Smith understands…and after seeing the film I’d also wager he’s the only one would WANT to see it too.
The film’s use of comedy is embarrassingly awkward and feels completely out of place and out of sync with the rest of the film’s narrative; or maybe it’s just out of sync because the gruesome horror elements of Wallace’s “transformation” is so revolting that no amount of chuckles can laugh off the intensity of the “big reveal.” The film isn't even so much as gory (like say the “Saw” movies) as it is just disturbing and it only gets weirder and worse as the film progresses. It’s a shame because everyone in this movie are GREAT actors to watch, Justin Long pulls off the jerk motif amazingly well and his beginning scenes with the stunning performance of Parks were some of the best parts of the movie. There were great uses of deep music, intense camera close ups and brilliant dialog that all could have been used for a less puke inducing film.
I get the creativity Smith wants to express here and I totally admire his dedication to a truly original idea and bringing it to life for all to see. But every step leading up to the “change” is about all the good you are going to get. This is a film not meant for people, Smith seems to be the only one who wanted this idea to exist on camera and after seeing it; I really wish it hadn't existed or at the very least I regret actually paying to see it. You don’t want to see this movie, any curiosity or morbid mood craving you might have will trick and trap you into seeing the film and immediately regretting it afterwards. Nothing about this ends well and it’s a shame because every actor, writer and director involved has done AMAZING things in the past…this isn't one of them. I hate to tell people what to do so I will say this instead: Please Kevin Smith…go back to comedies, I don’t think we can survive another “Tusk” or “Red State” even if you can.
I give “Tusk” 1 star and a half out of 4.