Thursday, September 18th 2014 was the release day of Tusk, the first of the “True North” trilogy of films based on particular episodes of “Smodcast”, hosted by the movie’s director, Kevin Smith, along with his producer buddy, Scott Moiser. There was also a special promotion going on: if you take a picture of your ticket stub and add a certain hashtag on twitter, your handle gets to be in the credits for the DVD and Blu-Ray release. I’m sure that hardcore Smith fans and those interested in having an excuse to have a listing on IMDB saw it opening night. It being a Thursday night, there were bound to be a decent crowd for the screenings on Friday, or at least I would like to assume that. I wasn’t able to see the movie until Saturday. Typically, I’m a movie goer that likes to go to the theater by themselves, not because I’m a loser (although I won’t deny that), but I do like to watch movies without much chatter. It turns out I got exactly what I asked for.
The only really downside of watching Tusk in an empty theater is that I really can’t gauge the reactions of others. That’s why this is movie is going to be difficult for me to recommend.
Tusk is based on a fake ‘for rent’ listing on an English classified website. The imaginary landowner offered free rent, but in exchange, the tenant must dress up as a walrus for two hours a day, to aid in recreating the friendship landowner had with a walrus. This hoax gained a lot of popularity due to just how bizarre the idea was, which eventually ended up as a point of discussion on Smodcast. After some back and forth with Moiser, they discussed how a horror movie based on the ad would go. But afterward, the idea of the movie was secured planted in Smith’s mind, to the point of asking his Twitter followers if they would actually like him to make this movie. Thanks to #WalrusYes, Smith got the answer he wanted to hear. Only a bit over a year later, Tusk is available for American audiences to see.
Wallace Bryton, played by Justin Long, a Smith veteran, is a podcaster who travels around the country to interview “weirdos”, then, in a deprecating fashion, recounts how it went to his co-host, played by Haley Joel Osment. Wallace eventually ends up in Canada, where he meets Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a wheelchair-bound man who had plenty of adventures to share. But before Wallace realizes something was off about Howe, he falls victim to an extraordinary produce that leaves him as close to being a walrus as possible.
I think that alone should be enough for you to determine whether or not you would like to see the film. But as a completely unqualified reviewer, it’s my duty to help you out with making the right choice (for yourself, at least.) First off, “Tusk” tries to present itself as a horror movie. There isn’t much violence or gore in the movie, but there may be a few parts that could creep you out. Overall, I feel that the comedic elements overshadow the horror aspects of Tusk. I’m usually not on for horror films, but Tusk was an easy sit-through. Michael Parks, who also starred in Smith’s previous film, Red State, brought his A-Game, delivering a performance that brought the traits of Howe, which can leave you admiring the character until he reveals his true left. There was also another character, played by an actor I’m sure you know of, that was rather eclectic and notable, but I rather not ruin the surprise for you, if you decide to watch the film. The rest of the performances were good enough to where I can’t have any grips against them. As for the characters though, aside from Wallace and Howe, I really felt that they did not deserve as much screen time they got, which was a good fifty percent of the movie. Most of it is just comprised of pointless drama that failed to get me intrigued. I just wanted to see more of the walrus. Speaking of the walrus, the practical effects used was great enough to have you taken back at how much work went into creating the walrus. But if you’re like me, you’ll can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing is. I’m not just talking about the walrus, but the whole movie itself. You would be doing yourself a disfavor if you come into this film, expecting to be scared. But that where I think the movie fails. Smith said many times in interviews and his podcast, calling it a horror movie. But there was not enough material to praise Tusk as such. I believe the target audience Smith had in mind for Tusk was his loyal fans, along with himself. When I say loyal, I mean beyond just enjoying his movies. In order to really appreciate the film for what it is, you would have to be familiar with Smith’s work in podcasting. References to his shows, like Smodcast, Plus One, Hollywood Babble-on, and Edumacation, are littered throughout the film. There isn’t much witty dialogues you have come to expect of Smith films that can be found in Tusk. The absurdity is the movie’s only saving grace, and even that’s stretching it.
I give Tusk a 3 out of 6. Unless you are a Kevin Smith super fan boy, the only way I can imagine people enjoying this movie is by watching it with a group of friends and savor the screen time that the walrus gets. I get the feeling that Smith’s intention will be lost among mainstream audiences, probably expecting some spooks but instead laughing at how dumb the movie is and writing it off as terrible. If you are going to watch the film, do yourself a favor and listen to the Smodcast episode that inspired Tusk beforehand. You’ll get a better idea of what you’ll get out of the movie. There was a part of the podcast episode I figured wasn’t going to show up in the movie, but I was surprised to see it as a scene. It turned to be my favorite part of the movie, since the movie went full out stupid at that point. From time to time, it may be good to watch stupid movies, perhaps to loosen up a bit. I know I said this many times throughout this review, but please be aware of what kind of movie this is. If you still are unsure, just wait until it hits Netflix. That way, if you don’t like it, the only thing you’ll end up wasting was time and not money.