If these walruses could talk
I was in the San Diego Comic Con audience last year when Kevin Smith, doing his annual thing, told the audience the story of the movie Tusk.
He shared how it started as a discussion about a strange personal ad he and producer Scott Mosier, his longtime friend and sometime producer, spotted while doing a podcast. The discussion turned into an improvised, jokey horror film scenario where an old man takes in a boarder and slowly transforms him into a walrus. Soon after the podcast and a call to his audience to say “yay” or “nay” for a film of this scenario, Tusk went into production.
The finished product adheres rather closely to Smith’s original podcast plot line, with a few changes. It’s amazing that this movie was able to get made, let alone get a theatrical release.
Wallace Bryton and Teddy Craft (Justin Long and Haley Joel Osment) are two geeks who run a podcast called the Not-See Party. They like to cover strange stories, and their latest is some dude in Canada who chopped off his leg while filming himself doing samurai tricks.
Wallace, who is somewhat of a dickhead and treats his girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) like total garbage, heads to Canada for an interview. When that falls through, circumstances lead to him visiting the rustic and alienated abode of one Howard Howe (Michael Parks).
Howard regales Wallace with stories of meeting Ernest Hemingway, and having his life saved after a shipwreck by a friendly walrus. Wallace sips his tea and throws in the occasional crude comment. Then he hits the floor, unconscious.
What follows isn’t as disgusting as I hoped it would be, but it’s still gross and outlandish. Howard starts amputating Wallace’s body parts and puts the finishing touches on a permanent walrus suit. Before long, Wallace, sans tongue and certain limbs, is covered in a patchwork of human skin, with tusks fashioned from his leg bones jutting out of his face.
The resultant monstrosity is more of a goofy-gross laugh than a purely horrific visual, but it works on your basic horror/comedy level if you are a genre geek. Credit Long for going “Full Walrus” in this movie. Never has an accomplished actor achieved such a realistic vision of walrus characteristics. Actually, I think he might be the first to ever try.
Parks is masterful in this movie, transforming from a lonely, old, wheelchair bound man to a menacing, terrifying abductor in the time it takes him to sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” While Long goes Full Walrus, Parks goes totally insane, and the moment where the two share their first dinner together is blissfully creepy.
Things get progressively silly as Howe trains Wallace on how to be a walrus and eat fish with no hands. The film’s tone shifts even further into silliness when a well-known actor, in heavy makeup, shows up playing an investigator that helps Ally and Teddy search for Wallace.
Long does a great job of garnering sympathy for a real douchebag. Credit Smith for a flashback scene that shows Wallace being ridiculed by two store clerks. It’s essentially Wallace’s last normal human interaction before his transformation, and it assists in making you feel truly sorry for the guy.
As with his superior Red State, Smith loses it a bit with the ending. I like part of what he was trying to do, but it’s a bit too serious for this film, and somebody in the scene needed to be acting it with a knowing wink. There’s a point in the movie when Smith commits to unabashed lunacy, so a touching payoff seems a bit out of place. Stay for the credits, because you’ll hear some of the original podcast, and you get an extra scene.
As a glutton for good horror-comedy, I appreciate Tusk, even if it stumbles in parts. It’s a movie that has Justin Long and Michael Parks battling to the death while wearing walrus suits made of human body parts. That’s enough for me to recommend it.
Tusk is bombing big time at the box office so, if you are a Smith fan and you want to see Justin Long get tortured, get to a theater fast before it leaves.