There is a certain mindset that one has when he or she goes into a movie about a man who gets turned into a walrus. You’re not going to walk into “Tusk,” no matter what reviews you’ve read about it, expecting “Citizen Kane.” This is one of those movies that you can tell from the trailer alone whether you should see it or not. Go watch it, and if you made it through that ridiculousness with your sense of humor intact, “Tusk” will be worth your time.
Demarest Films with Smodcast Pictures
The film is clearly a passion project for director Kevin Smith (“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”), who has finally crossed the fame threshold to the point where he can make wide-release horror films about surgically morphing a man into a walrus and no one can tell him he can’t. The much-discussed, ridiculous plot of “Tusk” originated on the Smodcast, Smith’s weekly podcast he co-hosts with his longtime editor Scott Mosier.
The film follows Wallace Bryton (Justin Long, “Accepted”), an obnoxious, unlikable, but highly successful podcaster. Sound familiar? Smith fans will notice familiar trends in Bryton’s speech patterns; the character is highly autobiographical. Bryton, after a chance encounter in a Canadian bar restroom, decides to interview a reclusive naval veteran (Michael Parks, “Django Unchained”) for his popular podcast (yeah, it’s called “The Not-See Party”). Soon, however, Bryton finds himself drugged, cut up and mutilated, discovering that the insane man desires to … well, you probably get it by now.
Considering how silly the plot is, “Tusk” has a particularly clever script. This is light-years funnier and more intelligent than comparable spoof-horror movies like the “Scary Movie” franchise. The essence of the film’s humor is its understated self-awareness. Breaking the fourth wall is such an overused trope in spoof movies and “Tusk” thankfully avoids it completely, instead relying on legitimately clever dialogue and ironic visual flourishes in the vein of the jumpy, cheesy editing of the “Evil Dead” franchise.
When “Tusk” isn’t funny, it’s actually kind of terrifying. You see Justin Long get torn apart over the course of the movie, with an appropriate amount of disturbing screaming and intense gore. It’s tolerable, because Long’s character is so unlikable, but squeamish viewers may find themselves frequently looking away.
Perhaps the film’s strangest feature is its almost secret inclusion of Johnny Depp (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) as alcoholic French-Canadian investigator Guy Lapointe. You know and love Depp for his offbeat performances, but until you’ve seen “Tusk,” you have yet to see Depp at his weirdest. His performance is not even particularly funny, it’s simply one of the most bizarre appearances in any film.
“Tusk” is the definition of a solid “B” movie. Both the overall concept and the dialogue are legitimately clever, and the film is self-aware enough to make its low-budget aesthetic negligible. Best of all, besides “Boyhood,” no other film this year is as wholly original. If you can put yourself in the “yes, I am going to enjoy this really dumb thing for the next 90 minutes” mindset, you will have a great time with “Tusk.”