Written and directed by Kevin Smith and based on a fake Gumtree ad, Tusk is a strange film.
The story goes that Smith had heard of a Gumtree advert for a lodger, the lodger could live rent free if he agreed to dress up as a walrus for 2 hours a day. The advert turned out to be a hoax but it piqued Smiths interest. He discussed the advert on his SModcast and within minutes he realised this story sounds like a great idea for a horror film. Thus, Tusk was born. You can read more about the origins and backstory here.
Justin Long takes the lead role as Wallace a popular podcaster who travels to Manitoba in Canada to interview ‘The Kill Bill Kid’ (a Star Wars Kid parody) a teen who filmed himself fighting with a katana and inadvertently cuts off his own leg. Due to unforeseen circumstances when Wallace arrives he is unable to interview The Kill Bill Kid and so goes to a bar to drown his sorrows on a wasted trip.
However, when in the bar he discovers an interesting bill stuck to the wall, a man named Mr Howe, a man full of stories from a life well lived is offering a room for rent in exchange for an open ear. Wallace thinks he’s stumbled onto something exciting so makes the 2 hour drive to Mr Howe’s house.
Enter Michael Parks, the man who played Smith’s murderous preacher in Red State. In Tusk Parks is given plenty of long rambling dialogue which he delivers perfectly. I could listen to him read the phone book. As Mr Howe he is both engaging and creepy as fuck and you’re never quite sure if the stories he tells are true.
I went into Tusk expecting a horror film but there are no real scares, although there is a sense of mounting dread when Wallace (Justin Long) discovers that Mr Howe is more than he seems. There is some gore but not quite as much as I was expecting, this is hardly the ‘disgusting’ film that people are saying it is. Sure, the idea might be repellant but it’s horror, or rather it’s trying to be horror.
Sadly the tension being built around Mr Howe and Wallace doesn’t last long as we jump from flashbacks to before Wallace goes to Canada and we see conversations with his girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) and podcast co-host Teddy (Haley Joel Osment). We see how the celebrity he’s gained via his podcast has turned him into an asshole, he talks to Teddy about cheating on Ally while he’s in Canada. Could Wallace be about to get his comeuppance? Does karma have tusks?
And then there’s the cameo, a totally unnecessary and some might say ruinous cameo from Johnny Depp. While it provided a few extra laughs those laughs are not worth ruining the tone that Smith had spent the first two thirds of the film creating.
Did I like Tusk? I’m not sure. I liked that it was different in terms of storyline but it fails at being a horror, which is how it’s being promoted. It’s more comedy than anything else but there’s something quite ballsy about making this film. It’s not going to be for everybody, it’s not even going to be for die hard Kevin Smith fans but for all its flaws I did enjoy watching it. It’s novelty factor is high, the acting is fine but the lighting as times was much too bright and slightly ruined some of the more shocking scenes. Tusk could have been a lot more than it is but it also could have been a lot worse.
Tusk is to be the first of a trilogy of Canadian films called True North.Smith already knows the titles for the next 2 films; Yoga Hosers and Moose Jaws. Despite his threats to quit filmmaking we can expect more from Kevin Smith.