SciFridays: “Tusk” (2014)

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SModcast Pictures

Baddie – Madness, slow-brewed over time.

Lesson – Maybe, maybe a walrus is superior.

I’m taking a quick break from Shame September because Tusk came out, and I needed to go and see it. I encouraged a friend of mine to drive all the way up to Austin for it, and as a result, that required a playlist. I humbly suggest you give it a listen.

Tusk has a unique hook. Directed by Kevin Smith, it’s a tale about a podcaster who travels to Canada to chase weird life stories, which inevitably leads him into the clutches of a madman who wants to transform him into a walrus. Naturally, my interest was piqued, and I’ve been waiting a longggg time to see this movie.

Never, and I mean never, has a movie made me silently word, “What the…” this much. It’s also the first movie I’ve ever attended where people left in the middle, which was confusing for reasons I’ll elaborate upon in a bit.

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SModcast Pictures

So basically, this is one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen. I would say that it’s purely a subversive horror-comedy, but it isn’t, not really. Honestly, I’m not sure where to start. There aren’t really any spoilers (spoiler: he turns him into a walrus) so I’ll just try and tackle the entire thing. First of all, if it feels like this is a movie that was bantered back and forth between two friends, that’s because it was. That’s right, Tusk was conceived during Kevin Smith’s own podcast (SModcast). (For the record, Head Honcho Bossman James and I have our own film like this, it’s called Crocopotamus and it’s going to be beautiful). So basically, it’s pretty apparent that this was one of those conversations-turned-elaborate-storyline-turned movie, and I don’t hate it. It’s kind of neat to watch someone’s dream come to life, and since it’s someone creative and decently talented like Kevin Smith, it works out pretty well.

This is, however, also the biggest problem I had with the movie. I’m referring to a very specific section in the later half, which involves Guy Lapointe, who is never named as an actor but is clearly a man in prosthetic makeup (albeit very very good makeup) and is none other than Mr. Johnny Depp. Unfortunately, it’s a severe caricature and a long segment that frankly, while occasionally amusing, was ultimately too weird and quirky for my tastes. Remembering, of course, that this is too quirky and weird within a movie that’s super quirky and weird. It does re-affirm Mr. Depp’s talent as a character actor though, so that gives me even more hope for Into the Woods.

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SModcast Pictures

Actually, that brings me to addressing the acting. It was great. Like, all around super awesome just great. Justin Long does an excellent job as the douche you reluctantly want to cheer for, and there’s a portrayal of relationships that’s intricate and handled very well. I have almost no arguments about dialogue and plot. Michael Parks is diverse and wonderfully restrained as the maniac Howard Howe. His role is expertly written, and his delivery cinches a quirk unlike any other. It really makes the horror movie, and I can’t actually emphasize this enough.

As per usual, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk prosthetics and effects. This is a movie that hinges heavily on them, and without spoiling too much about the final walrus look, it must have been a beast of a job, pun fully intended. It’s seamless, and stylized. I mean, yes, part of me accepts a movie up until wounds stop healing, so sue me. My suspension of disbelief fails me at weird moments. All in all though, they took something that should have been goofy and made it decently creepy, aided heavily by Justin Long’s walrus-acting and vocalizations.

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SModcast Pictures

Ultimately, I would suggest going to see Tusk if you like horror. It’s a beautifully constructed subversion with a lot of unique elements that bleed over, and it’s pretty original in terms of production. It’s definitely a Kevin Smith movie, so if you like Kevin Smith you’ll probably love Tusk. I certainly enjoyed it.

(Also, in regards to leaving – I figure there are two reasons to leave a movie. One, it’s a bad movie and you don’t want to watch it anymore. Two, it’s gory and disgusting and you can’t stomach it. Tusk is neither of these things, unless they were expecting a serious movie about a man surgically transformed into a walrus…)

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