Having dipped his toes into the murky waters of horror with 2011’s Red State, Kevin Smith returns with another dark and twisted tale known as Tusk, the first of his planned True North trilogy.
Plot-wise, Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) is the co-host of an outlandish podcast known as The Not-See Party. Looking to exploit some of the more bizarre and unique folks dotted out there across the worldwide web, Wallace heads off to Canada to poke fun at his latest story, the Kill Bill Kid. Unfortunately, by the time he arrives to see this poor sap who’s accidentally lopped off his own leg with a samurai sword, the wannabe Bride has offed himself. Having travelled all of that way for nothing, Wallace is in desperate need of a story in order to make his trip worthwhile. Step forward, Howard Howe (Michael Parks).
Wallace happens across an advert placed by Mr. Howe, an advert which offers somebody the chance to live with him in his expansive house, rent-free, and all the new tenant needs to do is act like a walrus for a set period of time each day. Intrigued, Wallace treks out to rural Manitoba to meet the wheelchair-bound Howe. As we learn of Howe’s eerie, walrus-affected backstory, it’s not long before it becomes clear that the creepy old sea dog is keen to turn Wallace into a walrus in order to bring him some companionship and let the good times roll. Or something like that. Elsewhere, Wallace’s girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) and podcast co-host Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) set out to find the missing walrus-in-waiting.
Safe to say, Tusk is just a little unique in its premise. It’s not every day you come across a film which sees a crazed old man looking to bring back the good times by turning an unsuspecting enquirer into a doting, fish-eating walrus named Mr. Tusk. Odd, yes, but the film certainly works well on a multitude of levels. As well as a truly sinister edge at times, the film is also laced with the snappy dialogue so often associated with Smith, and there’s even a few choice and impressive monologues for the always-stunning Michael Parks. It goes without saying that Parks is great… but Parks is great. Better than great. But if you’ve ever seen a Michael Parks movie, you’ll already be aware of this. Here the veteran actor plays an unhinged, erratic loner who essentially is longing to relive a particularly fond memory, yet is one creepy-ass bastard in doing so.
Away from Parks, Justin Long is also in fine form here, delivering a nobody who is suddenly a somebody thanks to exploitative podcasting, and he is equally a scumbag as well as also managing to be remarkably engaging and watchable. More surprising is how charismatic Haley Joel Osment comes across during the time he’s on screen, with many maybe having not seen the now-27-year-old actor since the likes of A.I. and The Sixth Sense. The chemistry between both he and Long and he and Genesis Rodriguez works well, although in varying ways. And then there’s Johnny Depp, popping up near the end of the second act and threatening to steal the film as his oddball detective, Guy Lapointe, devours scenery like a shark chowing through Amity Island tourists.
When all is said and done, Tusk is a worthy follow-up to the fascinating Red State (another Smith and Parks vehicle), and Kevin Smith delivers a deeply disturbing movie that throws up plenty of questions about monsters and humanity yet still manages to give audiences enough of the Smith humour, charm and charisma that they’ll be familiar with by this stage of the game.
Completing the release, there’s one of Smith’s always-information and entertaining commentaries, along with a couple of nice deleted scenes and the brilliant animated version of the whole Tusk concept coming together on Smith’s SModcast. Whilst some may find it a little too odd, there’s plenty in Tusk that will appeal to a wide variety of audiences. Walrus, yes? Unequivocally.
Special Features: Audio commentary with Kevin Smith / Animated podcast / Deleted scenes
INFO: TUSK / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: KEVIN SMITH / SCREENPLAY: KEVIN SMITH / STARRING: JUSTIN LONG, MICHAEL PARKS, GENESIS RODRIGUEZ, HALEY JOEL OSMENT, JOHNNY DEPP / RELEASE DATE: MAY 25TH (DIGITAL HD), JUNE 8TH (DVD, VOD)