“You either live as a walrus, or you don’t live at all”, and that is the premise of Kevin Smith’s latest, a fucked-up tale of a podcaster turned walrus. Justin Long plays Wallace, who on a trip to Canada to meet an interviewee for his podcast, ends up being held hostage by a creepy old man who tells long, bizarre stories about his life; his most coveted being a story about how a walrus saved his life. We soon learn that this man, Howard Howe (Michael Parks), is a serial killer known for turning his victims into walruses, by mutating their bodies into one that resembles the sea creature. Anyone who is familiar with Kevin Smith may know that this idea came out of a false news story from the UK that the director and his co-host on his own podcast had found, and fans weighed in on whether or not it should have become a feature length film. The question is, was it worth it in the end?
Kevin Smith is known for his certain every-guy brand of humour, he makes the movies about his friends that no one else would make. There’s a very real quality to that, and Tusk is half that movie, and half this bizzare and potentially horrifying premise of a man turned walrus. Technically the film is a comedy-horror, and it’s much more a parody than anything resembling something that could ever scare anyone. The idea of a man being turned into a walrus and the execution of that is well-done, as the sight of Justin Long transformed into the squealing creature is rather disturbing. However, the movie is really a joke in itself, and Kevin Smith is fully aware of that. It’s hard to take Tusk as anything more than a seasoned director, known for stoner comedy films, going full-throttle with an absurd idea. The problem is that the film never fully goes for it. The performances are all around decent, there are some cool cameos, and Tusk is the kind of film that could have become a cult classic down the line. The main problem with it is that aside from the idea behind it, the film itself isn’t very funny. It feels a bit like its trying, when all it really needed was to play up on the fact that they turned Justin Long into a fucking walrus! There’s side stories, like Wallace’s best friend and girlfriend searching for him, and the detective that randomly swoops in to help, that just feel so unnecessary and unfunny. The walrus material is gold and that’s the only time the film is worth watching-as it’s level of pure craziness will make it hard to divert your attention from the screen. There’s too much other stuff in this movie, which throws it off tonally and nearly ruins the craziest idea nearly any film has ever touched.
In the end, Tusk is the kind of movie that you need to see once to get what all the hype is about, but it also doesn’t really hold up due to its flaws. The walrus stuff between Michael Parks and Justin Long is great, but it needs more. This movie knows exactly what it’s doing and audiences are either going to be scared off or think its hilarious. Unfortunately, the actual dialogue and focus of the film is uneven, and what could have been one super crazy, bizarre film never goes 100% for it. Kudos for trying, Kevin Smith.