Way back when we first started Simplistic Reviews, my first review was of "Zack and Miri Make a Porno." Of course when we first started it really wasn't so much reviews as it was merely talking about a specific scene that we enjoy. It was more, for lack of a better term, simpler in those days. In the years since, the site has expanded and the reviews have become a tad more insightful. I only bring this up because it made me feel nostalgic to think that my first review for the site was for a Kevin Smith flick, and now today I'm proud to review his latest film, the Canadian-inspired horror film "Tusk," which I feel a real sense of connection with for some reason. While "Tusk" is kind of new, and kind of fresh, there was something in my gut where I felt a little weird kind of already knowing what was going to happen and almost felt guilty about that. More on that later.
"Tusk" is the tale of two podcasters, Wallace and Teddy, who host the "Not-See Party Podcast." Wallace is a fun-loving dude who has found success as a podcaster after years of failing as a comedian. He's got a smoking hot girl friend and gets to travel around the country finding strange and unusual Internet sensations to interview for the podcast. After busting out in his travels to Canada, Wallace finds an intriguing ad telling of the adventures of a man named Howard Howe. Upon arrival at Howe's home, Wallace is taken in by his calm demeanor and his tale of survival at sea with the help of a walrus, whom Howe befriends. As it turns out, Howe isn't the pleasant old man that he appears to be, drugging and kidnapping Wallace with a nefarious end-game.
Kevin Smith's latest effort is a radical departure from anything he's ever done before, and I'm even including Red State. There is nothing View Askew-y at all, no Snoochie Boochie, no overally clever dialogue, not dick and fart jokes, "Tusk" is pretty much a squirm-fest with some Canadian melodrama thrown in, which might be the one thing that is recognizable from Smith's previous work.
In case you don't know the story of "Tusk" it all started as a podcast conversation on Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier's SMODcast in Episode 259 "The Walrus and the Carpenter." Being an avid listener of the podcast I was laughing at the scenario they were creating based on an article they found in Gumtree where a room was for rent, but only if the tenant was able to perform some menial tasks, ie, dress in a walrus suit for two hours a day and only act as a walrus would. It would later be revealed that the classified was a prank, however, I would have never of thought that a conversation on a podcast have been made into a feature length film. With DJ, Justin, and myself as podcasters as well, who go off on long and incredibly strange tangents, it's crazy to think that a tangent can lead to something like this, but this brings me to what sort of irks me about the film.
While I truly did like "Tusk;" I mean it's weird, thought-provoking, gruesome, and the acting is well done, I couldn't stop thinking to myself in the theater; what am I watching? While there are already comparisons to "Human Centipede" and other torture porn in the same vein, "Tusk" is both a film with ideas about the savageness of man, and how far are we truly evolved as a species, and a strange love triangle that is briefly touched upon. I understand the Smith likes to borrow a lot from his other films, and I couldn't help but think that "Tusk" was a cross between the weirdness of "Red State" and the drama of "Chasing Amy." However, this isn't a knock, this is just something that I'm sure a lot of people in the crowd who go into this movie cold will probably say to themselves. It almost seems that "Tusk" is an inside joke that only listeners of SMODcast will truly understand, which is cool, it made me feel like part of an exclusive club; a film made just for me, if you will.
The campaign of "Tusk" is almost as interesting as the film itself. After SMODcast 259, Smith posed a question on his Twitter and Instagram account; basically if you want to see a film about a guy getting turned into a walrus, hastag WalrusYes. The response was enormous and with enough up-votes, if you will, "Tusk" was made based on the response. This is what makes Kevin Smith so endearing, and dangerous, for old Hollywood. Old Hollywood relies on suits, and people in high places, to get films made. All Smith needed was a push from his audience and some brave investors, and he made a film that not only looks as good as films done at double, if not triple, the budget, but he was also able to bring in some pretty decent star-power, including Johnny Depp in another over-the-top, yet understated, performance. Like how Smith trolled Hollywood years ago when he screened "Red State" at Sundance and proceeded to purchase his own film, he's doing something similar by creating a film for his fans just because he could, and people wanted to see it. When you think about it, it makes you think "wow, I can do that......."
So "Tusk" should you see it or not? For morbid curiosity sake, the film is a no-brainer if you are into horror, and/or a Kevin Smith fan, however, if might throw you off, because this is not your typical Kevin Smith film. This is a new direction, no pun intended, for Smith who I think is at a point in his career where he has reached a self-actualization point where he is not only making films for himself anymore, but for the fans that support him, and that is something that should be applauded. #walrusyes
Fun Fact: While Smith wasn't able to get Greg Nicotero to design the walrus suit, he was able to nail down Robert Kurtzman, a member of Nicotero's KNB Efx Group.