Tusk Dir. Kevin Smith

[A24 Films; 2014]

Styles: comedy, horror
Others: Red State, The Human Centipede, Drawing Flies, Vulgar

The internet — present company excluded, of course — is just a bad idea. There’s even a line about it in Tusk: “There’s so much freedom for young people these days, it’s incredible,” said by Howard Howe (Michael Parks) to Wallace Bryton (Justin Long), a podcaster travelled to Canada to interview some viral-video schmuck who went and offed himself, leaving Wallace and his show topic-less in the Great White North. Howard is an old man who’s lived a full life — as is evidenced by his surfeit of stories about meeting Ernest Hemingway on D-Day and being marooned on Ponder Island, alone with a walrus named Mr. Tusk, short for Tuskegee. To him, Wallace’s podcast seems silly, excessive, weird, and filled with language the FCC would never clear for broadcast; to him, Wallace is afforded the ability to do a lot of things that may not be such a good idea but are, nonetheless, low hanging fruit ripe for the picking.

Tusk is, itself, this low hanging fruit — low hanging enough that it might have fallen, is rotting, riddled with craters and tunnels and bugs, etc., etc.; it is the internet’s own child. It was born on an episode of Kevin Smith & Scott Mosier’s Smodcast, their own podcast (the plot here bearing clear stretchmarks of a very creative birth), where they get baked and say a lot of dirty words in the midst of meandering chit-chat. Smith brought an ad to the table from a website that’s a lot like Craigslist, but is more restricted to room & board types of situations: an old man lives in a large house and misses his Walrus companion that he had many moons ago. He will give his spare room up for free, but only upon the term that whoever is renting must occupy a Walrus suit for at least two hours a day, and, while in the suit, must not be a human and must go “full Walrus.”

Before too long, Smith realized there was some kind of potential to make a movie: “Anyone who’s listening, copyright Kevin and Scott — this is a horror movie,” he says. He tells his listeners to go to Twitter and tweet #WalrusYes or #WalrusNo depending on if they want to see the movie or not, and after a litany of #WalrusYes posts, he takes a couple of weeks to cobble together a screenplay from the stoned podcast conversation where Mosier and Smith giggled their way through the major plot-points that remain in the finished product.

Smith envisaged a Hammer-esque horror movie, like The Human Centipede, or something, but stoned and slowed down and a lot less gruesome, and it has the basics in place: a dark, brooding mansion lit by candlelight, a grey-haired Dr. Frankenstein with a maniacal laugh, and some bloody carcasses littering the way. But there’s only blunt ways to put it: Tusk is an atonal mess, a gobbledegook of giggling and bad accents and reality stretched like saran wrap until it pops a thousand holes. It is a ship built of termite-infested boards — it was never even meant to float, and its problems stem from its very inception.

Red State, Smith’s last film, was smart, wry, gruesome. It wasn’t profound, certainly, but it had value in its genuine anger. Its plot started with a Craigslist post, too, wherein some horny teenage boys are trying to get laid but instead get kidnapped by a facsimile of the Westboro Baptist Church. There was something much scarier and far more genuine in that. Tusk might be intended as a comedy, but it isn’t very funny; it might be a horror movie, but it isn’t very scary. It is making fun of itself as much as anything else. It’s a good case against smoking too much pot too often, as well as against using Twitter. The internet is full of a lot of bad ideas, as the characters in Red State and Tusk found out. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.

Most Read