I love movies. I love watching them, enjoying them, making fun of them, and critiquing them. In the last eight months, it’s been nearly impossible for me to get to the theater, and when I do, I’ve found it exceedingly difficult to find the motivation to write anything about the movie I watch. I watched Aquaman, and it was great. A true saving grace for the DC Cinematic Universe. I viewed Endgame twice, and debated whether or not to say anything, but what could I say that hasn’t been said a million times over? Maybe I’ll do something for the “extended” re-release. I saw Unplanned, wrote half a review, then scrapped it because I didn’t want my return to writing to be on such a controversial topic. And so, it’s been one year since my last review, and eight months since my last post. I’ve continued watching movies, looking for one that inspires me. One that’s so different I have to address it. One that fills me with that passion for writing that I’ve missed so much. Nothing in theaters has done it for me, so I turned to past movies. Hesitant to make the transition from current movies to past movies, I searched for the right one. And I found it. A movie so utterly dumbfounding I find myself feeling the irresistible urge to speak. So without further ado, Tusk.
Tusk is the story of a charismatic, arrogant podcaster named Wallace Bryton, played by Justin Long. Wallace and his friend Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) run a podcast called the Not-See Party. Wallace travels to various location to interview outrageous people, and Teddy stays home, reacting to the hilarity that ensues. After viewing one such outrageous video, Wallace travels to Canada to interview a subject. Discovering that his interviewee is no longer able to do the podcast, he conveniently finds a strange old Man named Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a wheelchair-bound retired explorer offering lodging and a lifetime of stories in exchange for some assistance around his mansion. Intrigued, Wallace reaches out and makes contact with Howe. Howe is clearly a interesting individual, whom Wallace quickly notices has a fascination with walruses after being stranded on an island with one in his youth for an extended period of time. As the evening progresses, Wallace passes out and awakens to find his leg is missing. Howe feeds Wallace a thin story about being bit by a spider, and we see the insanity of our host beginning to show. Wallace tries to contact Teddy and his girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez), managing to leave a terrified voicemail on their phones before Howe traps him in his basement. Howe reveals his plan to surgically turn Wallace into a Walrus. As Howe drugs Wallace further and begins his surgery, Teddy and Ally investigate Wallace’s disappearance. They encounter failed Investigator Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp), a kooky French-Canadian police inspector who’s been tracking Howe for years. Howe completes the transformation of Wallace into a walrus, a flesh suited monstrosity composed of various human parts, then begins mentally conditioning his new pet. As the movie draws to its climax, all of our characters converge, Walrus Wallace faces off against his captor, and he’s discovered all to late to the disgusted shock of his friends.
Tusk has an interesting premise of being a unique idea from a good director (Kevin Smith, Clerks, Chasing Amy). The cast is all around great in their roles. Obviously the most interesting character in the movie is Howard Howe in a scenery chewing performance by Michael Parks. Parks is an absolute blast to watch, and much like Dr. Heiter in the Human Centipede, the most entertaining part of the movie. He’s clearly having the time of his life in his role, and shows his ability to play both the eccentric old man, and the absolutely insane psychopath who turns people into walruses. He and Justin Long have wonderful chemistry in their initial scene where they meet. Speaking of their first scene, it’s wonderfully executed. Watching the two play off each other and Howe tell his stories is likely the best scene of the movie. The other saving grace of the film is Johnny Depp as Guy Lapointe. Depp clearly is phoning in the entire performance, drunk out of his mind, and having a ton of fun with his character. When you can understand him through his ridiculous accent, he’s a relatively funny character, and responsible for the majority of the laughs we get through the film. Overall, the film stands out for its comedic timing when it wants to be funny. Unfortunately, it suffers from a similar issue many horror films today struggle with, which leads us into
Tusk suffers from a highly inconsistent tone. It feels like it wants to be Human Centipede if Centipede took itself less seriously. With a ridiculous looking walrus suit, two over-acted corny characters, and such a ludicrous concept, Tusk sets itself up as a seriously dark gore-fest comedy. But it goes all the way in the wrong places, and not far enough in others. When it’s clearly designed to be funny, it reigns itself in, almost as if it’s trying to ground itself in reality by giving Howe motivations, and Lapointe a tragic backstory. It tries to make you feel bad for Wallace, but as the movie goes on we get flashbacks showing him to be a more and more unlikable, unsympathetic asshole. Wrong move. His friends are shown to be moderately decent people after a while, but after their introductions, it’s hard to like them. But the biggest flaw of Tusk is it takes itself too seriously, and much like Human Centipede, you get practically nothing out of it you didn’t expect going in. You’re promised a man being turned into a walrus. You get a man who gets turned into a walrus. The surgery, you know, the part that’d make any gore-hound squeal with a mix of fascination and disgust, is entirely offscreen. The suit is very obviously latex, and looks pretty stupid. It’s attempts to ground itself dispel your suspension of disbelief, making you realize just how much dumber the entire concept is in reality than you first thought. How unbelievable it is. And the finale is soooo bad. After confronting and killing Howe (also in a Walrus suit), Wallace is taken to an animal sanctuary, believing he’s really a walrus. In what is one of the dumbest endings I’ve seen in a movie in recent history, it finishes with Wallace accepting his fate, and living out the rest of his life as a walrus. But after the serious scenes preceding it, no amount of lunacy will restore that precious suspension of disbelief to make you accept it as a satisfying finale.
In conclusion, Tusk is one of the most purely stupid films I’ve ever seen, and it infuriates me. A film with so much comedic, or horrifying potential tries to settle for both, and only succeeds half-way with its mediocrity. And so much wasted potential is the worst crime a movie like this can commit. Can I really recommend it? Who really cares. You get what you came for, nothing really more. You want a walrus man? You get a walrus man. It’s Human Centipede Lite. No balls, one and a half good performances, both of which overstay their welcome. A stupid plot, and it’s painfully boring. 3.5/10