Review by: Topo Sanchez
SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ (sorry, I don’t know how to do a 2.5 star!)
Kevin Smith’s (Clerks, Dogma) latest offering since 2011’s Red State is a mother lode of bizarre and twisted black humour, titled Tusk. The film was inspired by a fake Gumtree ad posting in 2013, and started to take a life of its own on Smith’s podcast radio show. After fleshing out a rough cut of the script live on-air, he decided to turn his warped idea into reality.
Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) and Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment) are the hosts of “The Not-See Party”, a cruel podcast channel that enjoys tremendous success from mocking and taking a piss at the freaks and weirdos that get invited onto the show. Their latest find is “The Kill Bill kid”, a guy who films himself fooling around with a samurai sword and accidentally slices off his own leg. Wallace flies to Canada to interview him for his show, only to learn that “The Kill Bill kid” has committed suicide after being overwhelmed by the embarrassment from the video going viral.
Disappointed with losing a story lead, Wallace goes to a nearby pub to regroup and figure out the next step. That’s when he notices a peculiar ad in the men’s room – a world-weary sailor looking for a roommate, with the promise of endless wild tales from his seafaring adventures. Wallace follows his hunch and takes a 2 hour drive out to the middle of nowhere to find the address, and finally meets an aging, wheelchair-bound eccentric that goes by the name Howard Howe (Michael Parks). After exchanging pleasantries, Howard dives right into his tales, and how he once got stranded on an island for 3 years, with only a walrus for company. In fact, he grew so fond of the walrus that he nicknamed it “Mr. Tusk”. Shortly after this revelation, the drug in Wallace’s tea takes effect and knocks him out cold.
Wallace wakes up to find himself heavily sedated, strapped to a wheelchair, and both legs missing. And so begins the horrifying transformation of Wallace the Man to Wallace the Walrus (so now you know why he’s called Wallace?)
Special mention goes to Michael Parks for putting on a remarkable performance as the sicko sailor Howard Howe. He looks genuinely whacked-out, and watching his creepy behaviour and shifty eyes gave me a sense of nervous uneasiness. I bet he had a lot of fun playing his character. Justin Long didn’t disappoint either, his portrayal of Wallace as a loud-mouthed, overconfident prick is pretty convincing, and I found myself eagerly anticipating all the bad stuff that this douchebag had coming his way.
Tusk is an absolutely absurd story, but that’s also why it is so strangely appealing and curious to cult movie hunters like scumcinema. I don’t think this is the kind of movie you would watch with your family at Christmas dinners or first dates, but it’s definitely going to be a fun night out if you’re hanging out with drinking buddies or twisted, weirdo friends.
Mind you, Tusk does not look or feel like a b-grade film at all. The special effects are pretty impressive, colour and lighting are flawless and the overall production quality is top-notch. I think this is probably a conscious effort from the team to deliver a certain level of quality, so the film will be taken seriously. In a way, it amplifies the absurdness value as well, like how can such a professional looking film contain such a ridiculous story plot – you can’t decide to laugh or take it seriously.
I have a couple of peeves with this film though. The dialogue is rather long-winded and self indulgent, and borderline boring. It feels like its been added in just to pad up the film to a credible running time, so the joke wears thin after a while. I would have pressed the fast forward button quite a few times, if not for the fact that the batteries were flat in the remote and I was just too lazy to get up. The voice in my head kept repeating “move on people, nothing to look at here!”
There is a surprise cameo from an A-grade Hollywood star playing Guy Lapointe, a stereotypical French Canadian police inspector Teddy and Ally (Wallace’s girlfriend) enlisted to help find the missing podcaster. And herein lies the cause of my next peeve – this star’s performance is too trying and predictable, and I cringed each time he tries to act all cute and kooky, drunk with a fake french accent. This annoying distraction is probably just to give him more air time because of his status, and I guess they were hoping his screen presence might lend some credibility to the film. Totally unnecessary in my opinion.
The final unveiling of the man-walrus creature is utterly hilarious and morbid at the same time. Seeing the creature for the first time is priceless so I shall not spoil it for you by posting the picture here (don’t google it either!). Let’s put it this way – the ridiculous mustache that Wallace wears will finally ‘make sense’. And after seeing the creature, I bet you too can name some mustache-wearing hipster friends of yours that might actually look better as a walrus. Perhaps you should send them to Howard Howe…
This is a film for die-hard Kevin Smith fans, because it feels like an elaborate joke that was specially produced just for their own amusement. For me, I like the fact that he took a risk to make such a ridiculous script come to life, but I just couldn’t buy into the long winded dialogues, much less the eye-roll inducing performance from the overacting police inspector.
So this is right down the centre, I would highly recommend it for Kevin Smith fans, but for the rest, maybe you can take your time to borrow the dvd from friends who might have it.