“I don’t wanna die in Canada!” Serious words screamed by our protagonist Wallace Bryton, Justin Long of Jeepers Creepers (2001) when realizing his life is about to change forever. Friends and successful podcasters Bryton, and Teddy Craft, Haley Joel Osment of The Sixth Sense (1999), host The Not-See Party (a play on Nazi), where they obnoxiously mock and humiliate people on their viral videos. Tusk (2014) is a true examination of our culture and its preoccupation and obsession with obtaining those 15 minutes of fame, where thousands post embarrassing videos online every day for recognition by anyone who will “like” or comment on their actions no matter how asinine or absurd.
The duo stumbles upon internet gold when they upload YouTube sensation and Darwin Awards candidate, The Kill Bill Kid, who is famous for accidently severing off his leg with a samurai sword. Of course the podcasters find this hilarious and Wallace plans to travel alone to Manitoba, Canada to interview The Kid, who he comes to discover, has committed suicide. Wallace, by himself in the Great White North and hard up for an interview before his return to Los Angeles, finds an advertisement in a bar bathroom to contact an old mariner offering a room in his home for free, along with the guarantee of hearing a lifetime of fantastic tales of the sea. Too good to be true, Wallace takes the bait and arrives at the mansion of Howard Howe, Michael Parks of From Dusk til Dawn (1996), a retired sailor in a wheelchair who shares many stories and artifacts from his journeys during his interview. Howe tells Wallace the story of a walrus Mr. Tusk, which rescued him after a shipwreck many years ago. That’s about the last time Tusk touches upon any normalcy.
The next morning, Wallace wakes up to find himself strapped into a wheelchair and his left leg amputated after he passed out the night before, when Howe laced his tea. Unsure of what is happening upon waking, Howe tells Wallace that he saw a poisonous brown recluse spider bite him on the leg before his collapse and that a local doctor had to amputate his appendage to save his life before the toxin spread. More terrifying drama ensues when Howe reveals he indeed can still walk and has plans to surgically and mentally turn Wallace into a walrus by fitting him into a perfectly constructed skin costume that looks like an epidermis quilt Ed Gein would use to keep warm on a cold Wisconsin night.
Before the surgery begins, Wallace finds time to break away and contact his girlfriend Ally, Genesis Rodriguez of Casa de mi Padre (2012), and Teddy, who in turn fly to Canada and employ a quirky Closeau like French Canadian inspector, Guy Lapointe, played by Johnny Depp (a role originally offered to Quentin Tarantino) to track down Wallace.
Through flashbacks and revealing backstories, we come to find every character is hiding a secret and there is more than meets the eye in this odd horror comedy. At the climax of Wallace’s plight into adopting wacky walrus ways, Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk (the scene is very carnivalesque) scores a showdown between captor and his prey while inviting the audience in on the film’s joke. The conclusion is far from happy, but fitting for such a weird tale of a flick with subject matter that has not been seen before and probably will not again soon in cinemas for years to come.
Tusk is first film in Kevin Smith’s (Clerks) Canada-based trilogy. The second film will be Yoga Hosers (2015) and the final installment will be Moose Jaws (2016). The origin of Tusk came during the recording of Kevin Smith’s popular podcast “SModcast 259: The Walrus and The Carpenter.” Smith and producer Scott Mosier of Mallrats (1995) discussed an article featuring a Gumtree advertisement (later revealed as a prank ad) where a homeowner was offering free room and board if the lodger agreed to dress as a walrus. The hosts spent the episode brainstorming and pitching a hypothetical story based on the ad. Smith then told his fans and Twitter followers to tweet “#WalrusYes” if they wanted to see their hypothetical turned into a film, or “#WalrusNo” if they didn’t. Overwhelming response was positive and Smith fans agreed that the film should be made.
Overall, I enjoyed Tusk and applaud the cast and crew for creating such a disturbing, entertaining, oddly amusing, and unsettling flick. Solid performances were on tap and executed flawlessly especially with the stressful circumstances shared between Long and Parks (Quentin Tarantino has deemed the greatest living actor). So my fellow cinephiles, give it a chance and you might enjoy this little treat like a walrus enjoys a mackerel… goo goo g’joob.