Kevin Smith’s latest film, Tusk, begins a trilogy into the backwoods of beloved Canada. The film stars Justin Long as Wallace Bryton, a podcaster in search of a great story for his podcast. After leaving both his co-host and his girlfriend behind (played by Haley Joel Osment and Genesis Rodriguez), he goes missing in the backwoods of Manitoba. From here this little comedy turns into a full blown gore porn horror flick and the podcaster goes full walrus.
Like falling down a rabbit hole, there’s no going back, and just like that the film is flipped on it’s head. I was so horrified of the images that are now burned into my head, but the experience is something beyond memorable. By the time Long’s character is being transformed, there’s no going back and there’s no unseeing what’s on the screen.
The film based on a podcast based on a fake advertisement has the same feel as almost all of Smith’s films, the dialogue is quick- witted and it is easy to get lost in Howard Howe’s life stories. Howe, played by Michael Parks, is a crazy combination between Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill. Parks shines in the film as he retells his horrific stories of his past, and at first the old man is relatable, but he becomes more and more sadistic. Bryton’s transformation into the walrus is quick and cringeworthy, and the walrus suit is a throwback to classic B-level horror films but is somehow realistic as it shows Bryton’s eyes. As Bryton begins his transformation, more about his backstory and his relationship with his girlfriend is
revealed. Rodriguez’s performance stands out with her powerful monologue as the camera slowly dollies in. While Bryton is going full walrus, his lover and best friend are on the hunt to find him, but the viewer knows what they are searching for and this only adds to the horrific images throughout the film.
Smith has become one of the largest names in the podcasting world and has built a little audience for himself over the past few years. His main podcast, SModcast, was what started this journey. Last summer, Smith and Scott Mosier published an episode named “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” In it, the duo spent 30 minutes making themselves giggle over an ad posted on Gumtree. It read that a man was looking for someone to live in his home for free with the only exception that they must dress like a walrus once a day. Smith was fascinated by the idea and his wheels spun as he broke down this horror film about a man being surgically morphed into a walrus.
What is hard to explain is how this odd horror flick packs such an emotional punch but will still make you laugh and cringe. As a warning, this film is not for everyone; in fact after first leaving the theatre, I said I never wanted to see the film again. As a bonus, Smith kept secret the fact that Johnny Depp is in the film, and his character Guy Lapointe is perfect for him. In a way there’s a film or genre for everyone inside Tusk, you just have to be willing to see what a human walrus looks like — and that ladies and gentlemen, will change you.