As an avid Kevin Smith fan, I was super excited to see that he was releasing a new movie in 2014. When I found out it was a horror comedy, I thought all my Christmases had come at once.
If you aren’t familiar with Kevin Smith’s work, you may be without realising you are! He wrote and directed some awesome 1990s cult classics including Clerks, Chasing Amy, Mallrats and Dogma, and a couple of recent releases that you’ve probably seen like Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Zack & Miri make a porno and Clerks II. I love all his comedy films, and think he is exceptionally clever at funny dialogue and tying his characters together in a sort of ‘Kevin Smith universe’.
However, I wasn’t sure how well he would go at horror. Now, to be fair, I am pretty desensitized when it comes to horror films thanks to A Serbian Film. Spoilers will be ahead so tread carefully, loyal reader.
Two guys Wallace (Justin Long) and Teddy (Hayley Joel Osmont – YES the Sixth Sense kid!) with a hit podcast show ‘The Not-See Party’ which basically find and mock humilating viral videos. Wallace often travels around the countryside searching for these people to interview them and further humilate them. Teddy, being afraid of aeroplanes, doesn’t accompany him. We learn via flash backs that Wallace is pretty much a dick. He failed as a stand up comic, and finds most of his joy by being mean to people, and cheating on his gorgeous girlfriend, Ally (Génesis Rodríguez).
After travelling to Canada to speak to one of their targets, he finds that the boy he was meant to meet up with has died, so he goes to a bar and randomly finds a notice board with a hand-written, interesting looking person looking for a boarder. Wallace decides to visit this unknown gentleman for the possibility of some lulz for his podcast.
He meets the strange Howard Howe (Michael Parks) who appears to be in a wheelchair and talks of his adventures of a retired seaman. He offers Wallace tea, to which he drinks. After listening to some more stories, Wallace becomes drowsy and falls asleep.
Of course, Howard Howe is a big ol’ loony looking to transform Wallace into a walrus. Naturally. Wallace wakes up to find one of his legs missing, and is obviously very upset. The dialogue in this scene is laugh-out-loud material. Howe tells Wallace that he saw a spider crawl out of his pant leg and a local doctor had to amputate his leg to save Wallace’s life. Howe now not only reveals that he can still walk, but lays out his plans for Wallace: he plans to fit Wallace into a perfectly constructed walrus costume. He denies Wallace a phone, saying ‘the doctor took them all’.
Wallace finds his phone and attempts to contact Ally and Teddy, who are having an affair behind his back, and fail when neither answer their phone before Howe knocks him unconscious. After seeing the missed calls and frightening voicemail left for them, Ally and Teddy fly to Canada.
Back at the mansion, Howe continues to mutilate and alter Wallace, to whom he tells his backstory: an orphan was physically and sexually abused for years by the clergy housing him, and as a result hates the entire human race. He sews Wallace into a walrus costume made of human skin, the tusks made of the tibia bones from Wallace’s severed legs. He also cuts out his tongue, so he can no longer communicate except for bellowing like a walrus. Howe feeds him raw fish, which, after a couple of days, Wallace eats.
Meanwhile, Ally and Teddy get in touch with Guy Lapointe (a cleverly disguised Johnny Depp) an Quebec ex-cop who has been hunting Howe for years. Lapointe reveals that Howe has been kidnapping and murdering people for years and believes Wallace may still be alive, but not as they remember him.
As the three arrive at Howe’s house, Wallace’s psyche has been completely broken and conditioned to be like that of a walrus. Howe reveals that his obsession with the walrus comes from killing and eating Mr. Tusk six months after living on the island. For the past 15 years, he has attempted to turn his victims into his beloved savior for a chance to relive their last day and give Mr. Tusk another chance at survival. Dressed in his own homemade pelt, Howe engages in a fight with Wallace that ends in Wallace impaling Howe’s chest with his tusks. Ally and Teddy enter the enclave as Wallace bellows like a walrus, much to Ally and Teddy’s horror. Lapointe later enters the room, and aims a shotgun at Wallace.
One year later, Wallace, still sewn into the pelt, lives in a wildlife sanctuary. Ally and Teddy visit him and feed him a mackerel. Ally remembers a discussion she had with Wallace the day before he left for Canada about how crying separates humans from animals, because crying shows that you have a soul. Ally tells Wallace she still loves him before walking off crying. Tears run down Wallace’s face as he bellows, implying that the human part of Wallace may not be completely gone.
First of all, I thought I would write a list of what I liked about the film, and then, what I didn’t like. Let’s start with the good stuff. The dialogue is funny, and the premise is somewhat ridiculously funny as well. Johnny Depp’s character was quirky and endearing, and I found myself liking his character the best. I thought the sets were amazing as well, with Howe’s creepy mansion fitting the scene perfectly, with an array of creepy props and general eeriness. For the most part, the characters were well cast, and Howard Howe certainly came across as being a deeply disturbed and deranged man. I also enjoyed the main character ending up being Wallace the Walrus, and before his transformation, he had a very walrus-esque moustache. Classic.
Now, what I didn’t like. The film tended to move a bit slowly, despite my thoughts on it also being too fast a timeline. Because I didn’t particularly like Wallace, as he was a dick and cheated on his girlfriend, I didn’t particularly care that he was in pain. This may have been what Smith was going for, but I didn’t think it was the best move. The fact that the ‘surgery’ for Wallace took only a couple of days was pretty unrealistic, considering how much healing would be involved, and the fact that he survived to then live in a sancturary (we’ll get back to this) doesn’t seem likely when he would probably die of an infection. Because, well, he had his tibia bones attached to his face. Like really.
If someone was found to be mutilated and placed inside a Walrus skin suit, don’t you think you would try to remove it and try to integrate him back into society? Give the man some damn therapy? Lastly, someone’s entire psyche doesn’t change in a matter of three days. It’s just stupid.
What you need to do with this movie is understand that it’s probably meant to be stupid. It’s not supposed to make any medical or mental sense, and I think that Kevin Smith wrote it for the laughs alone.
Great horror movie? Not particularly. Funny film? Absolutely, but not for the faint of heart 😉
Have you seen Tusk? What were your thoughts?