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Tusk (2014) - Movie Review

Every now and again I like to watch something a little bit different. As you know I’m a bit of a sucker for commercial, Hollywood movies but even I can occasionally get tired of those (and I definitely have been of late).

Last week my mate (the one who recently recommended I watch Guy Ritchie's The Covenant) messaged me, asking if I’d seen a movie that I immediately recalled someone on my Facebook page telling me about last year. His description of the plot prompted a quick visit to YouTube to watch the trailer, which in turn intrigued me to the point where I found it necessary to track it down and watch it.

Tusk (2014)

If you haven’t seen this film, it’s a psychological, dark comedy/horror written and directed by Kevin Smith (Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back). It stars Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers), Michael Parks (From Dusk Till Dawn), Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense), Genesis Rodriguez (The Last Stand) and a totally unrecognisable Johnny Depp.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

“A brash and arrogant podcaster gets more than he bargained for when he travels to Canada to interview a mysterious recluse... who has a rather disturbing fondness for walruses.”

As usual that synopsis does little to capture the imagination, so I’m going to ask you to watch the trailer below before reading the rest of my post….

...You’re back? Ok then, here we go.

I’ve got to say, this film has had a strange effect on me. I literally haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I watched it a few days ago. I can’t explain it. It’s not the best film I’ve ever seen by far, but the premise is so odd and the performances are so good that it’s left a weird mark on me.

An accurate way to describe the movie would be something along the lines of “Misery-meets-The Human Centipede” (in fact Kevin Smith himself called it “a cuddlier version” of the latter).

I’ve actually never seen The Human Centipede and don’t suppose I ever will since I know all I need to know about it and I just don’t go for those gross-out horror movies anymore. What I like about this film though is how it doesn’t show any of the gory stuff that films like The Human Centipede capitalise on. It also puts the story above everything else which is always refreshing.

It’s stated during the opening of the film that the story is “based on actual events” but that’s not entirely true. It’s not exactly false either but it is definitely a hefty stretch of the truth.

The truth is that Kevin Smith (writer and director) has a podcast called sModcast, and on an episode of it prior to this film being made (sModcast 259: “The Walrus and the Carpenter”) he and his co-host Scott Mosier talked about a Gumtree ad in which a guy was offering a living situation free of charge as long as the tenant agreed to wear a walrus suit and act as one for two hours a day...

During the podcast (and a lot of laughter from the two hosts) Smith and Mosier suggested the idea would make a crazy movie idea and fleshed out the details of the plot then and there on the episode. Fast forward to a little over a year later and Tusk was released in cinemas.

[As it happens the ad turned out to be a hoax but it resulted in a movie that’s both disturbing and entertaining in equal measures.]

I really like Justin Long. He’s pretty versatile but the horror genre definitely seems to be where he’s most at home. Before this the most recent thing I saw him in was Barbarian (2022), and in actual fact his character in that isn’t too dissimilar to the one he plays in this.

He acts “scared” and “douchebag” very very well. They seem to be his strengths as an actor and he doesn’t shy away from them. His character in this movie isn’t the most sympathetic to begin with, but even though he’s a bit of a d#ck you can’t help but feel sorry for him and hope that he manages to escape the desperate situation he finds himself in.

As good as Justin Long is though it’s the late Michael Parks who steals the movie. He’s absolutely brilliant as Howard Howe, the crazy but calculating and walrus-obsessed antagonist. He has a captivating screen presence and calmness that immediately draws you in, especially in his first few scenes where he’s regaling Justin Long’s character, Wallace with tales of his adventures at sea. However, this is just the beginning of things and he’s truly a joy to watch.

I’d seen on IMDb before watching the film that Johnny Depp was included in the cast. My friend had also told me how he’d heard that when Kevin Smith texted Depp with a pitch for the movie he’d replied: “Fascinating. This sounds like something I would care to swim around in. Colour me intrigued.”

Well, I was so immersed in the weird, walrus-related shenanigans of the film that I’d totally forgotten about Depp’s involvement. Then, a little over an hour into the film a new character is introduced called Guy Lapointe; a former Quebecian police inspector with an air of Inspector Clouseau who’s hired by Wallace’s girlfriend (Rodriguez) and best friend (Osment) to track down their missing comrade.

I was watching the scene in which Lapointe gives a two and a half minute monologue about how he’s been hunting the film’s antagonist for more than 20 years, when I suddenly realised I was watching an unrecognisable Johnny Depp wearing a prosthetic nose and talking in a French-Canadian accent!

Let me tell you, he’s brilliant! I’ve been a fan of his since Edward Scissorhands, but like Kevin Smith said in an interview, “He’s the best of the best. If there’s a Mount Rushmore of acting his f#cking face is up there.”

Despite its sinister tone, the film does have a lot of dark comedy throughout (I mean, the mere premise is laughable), but Depp’s performance is one of the more obvious moments of humour and I think it brings a certain amount of levity just when it’s needed.

Film Fact: Kevin Smith wanted Quentin Tarantino for the part of Guy Lapointe but he wasn’t interested.

This movie was a much needed breath of fresh air for me. It might not be to everyone’s taste but I’m definitely one of the people it set out to please.

It’s weird, funny (yet tragic), unique, and utterly compelling if you’re the kind of person who likes something slightly different to the norm. In a sentence it’s totally bonkers!

Sadly it only has a score of 5.3/10 on IMDb. I can only imagine the people who rated it missed what Kevin Smith set out to do and that’s make a movie that doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense but is enjoyable regardless.

I loved it!

You can rent it on Sky for under £3 or Amazon Prime for a little more.

Seen it? I’d love to hear your thoughts…


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