Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Tusk": Perhaps The Strangest Film You'll Ever See

Now In Theaters
Let me start out by saying how incredibly bizarre it is that this film even exists.  Seriously, this film was made on a joking dare by Kevin Smith’s podcast audience, and it now has a wide theatrical release, headlined by well-known actors like Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, and Johnny Depp.  And this is a movie about a man who captures people and surgically transforms them into walruses.  I… I hardly even know where to begin with this one, folks.  This is one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing, and that alone is worth the price of admission.

Justin Long plays a podcaster named Wallace (oh jeez, see what they did there?) who runs a podcast with his friend Teddy.  Together they exploit interesting people for hits on the internet.  While on a trip to Canada, Wallace runs across an advertisement for living space with a man who promises interesting stories in exchange for doing household chores.  The intrigued Wallace goes to meet this man, named Howard Howe (played by Michael Parks).  Howe subsequently drugs Wallace and begins the process of desecrating Wallace’s body so as to turn him into a facsimile of a beloved walrus from Howe’s youth, affectionately named Mr. Tusk.  Meanwhile, Teddy and Wallace’s girlfriend realize Wallace has been abducted, and they head to Canada to hunt him down.

That, my friends, is the strangest synopsis that I’ve ever had to write.  And you know what?  As ludicrous as that descriptions sounds, the film mostly works precisely because of how ludicrous it is.  This film has been billed as a horror comedy, which is a genre mashup that’s very difficult to pull off.  However, this film manages to walk the line of those two disparate film-types by sticking to one principle: shoot all the horror scenes with straight-faced sincerity, no matter how ridiculous.  Director Kevin Smith knows that this is an absolutely preposterous film that he’s making, so there doesn’t need to be any winks to the audience as the absurd plot unfolds before us; that absurdity speaks for itself, and the fact that we’re basically watching The Human Centipede with A FUCKING WALRUS is such a strange premise that the film sustains itself purely on that intrigue.

The only times I think the film really falters are in some of the scenes that require straight comedy to sustain interest, because sometimes the jokes fall pretty flat.  The first act is dominated by the douchebag Wallace, but most of his lines lack any sort of comedic timing, so he’s just aggravating to watch at times.  I realize that he’s supposed to be unlikeable so that we don’t feel too sympathetic for him as he’s mutilated later in the film, but I think the film perhaps dwells on his attitude to the point where he becomes unnecessarily obnoxious.  That said, Johnny Depp shows up in the scene-stealing second act role as an ex-cop to deliver a wonderfully bizarre monologue about his career of hunting the serial killer.  The resulting flashback, while perhaps a little overlong, is strangely hypnotic in its pure stupid grace.

Tusk is one of those films that is truly one of a kind.  I won’t pretend that it’s a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s the kind of experience that really needs to be seen to be believed.  The final scenes will convince you of that if nothing else.  Kevin Smith has created something that will be burned into my memory until the day I die, and all-in-all, that’s an accomplishment worthy of commendation and a recommendation.  Go see Tusk.  I don’t regret it, but even if you do, it will be worth it to know just how weird that goddamn walrus movie is.

Kevin Smith has announced two more horror movies to come out in the near future to complete what he calls The True North Trilogy.  After this, I’m oddly excited.  Leave your thoughts and impressions in the comments below.

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