If you’re not familiar with the original podcast episode, it had Smith and his friend and cohost Scott Mosier reading an ad (later revealed to be a hoax) in which an old man recounted how he once lived alone with a walrus on an island and went on to express his desire to welcome a lodger into his house on the condition that he would wear a realistic walrus costume and pretend to be said animal for his enjoyment. In the podcast, Kevin and Scott started riffing about how this could make a great horror movie if the old man actually forced his would-be lodger to go “full walrus”, surgically altering him in order for the illusion to be complete and whatnot.
It’s a ridiculous premise, but it could indeed have made a great horror movie, or at least a great horror comedy. Unfortunately, “Tusk” is neither. Poorly paced, dialogue-heavy and sometimes embarrassingly self-indulgent, the film lacks in both thrills and laughs. To be honest, the scenes in which the creepy old man, Howard Howe (Michael Parks), plays around gently and then not-so-gently with the man he turned into a walrus, an asshole podcaster named Wallace (Justin Long), are morbidly fascinating, thanks in no small part to the grotesque rubber creature makeup FX by Robert Kurtzman.
Alas, the vast majority of “Tusk” is not devoted to B-movie Grand Guignol, but to endless blabber. Now, I usually can’t get enough of the dialogue in Kevin Smith movies and I love to hear him chat up a storm on stage or in his countless podcasts, but for some reason, the dialogue felt flat, if not downright tedious to me this time around. I thought Michael Parks was riveting in “Red State” and he has his moments here, but there are times where I grew bored of him mumbling and rambling on and on.
And then there’s the “secret” supporting performance by an almost unrecognizable Johnny Depp as ex-Sûreté du Québec policeman Guy Lapointe, which is hammy beyond belief. And I’m sorry but the beret, the accordion music and the French accent all come off as France-French, not French Canadian. That being said, I did find some of the gags about the Canadian setting of the story to be amusing, so there’s that.
Here’s hoping “Yoga Hosers”, the next installment of what Smith calls his True North Trilogy, will be better. I still have hope, because in spite of my overall feelings about “Tusk”, one fact remains: I am a Kevin Smith fan.