Expectation Vs. Reality: Tusk

Sometime around last June, I was catching up on my podcasts and I listened to Smodcast Episode 259, “The Walrus & The Carpenter” where Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier riff off of a Gumtree article (a community and classified ad website) where a man was willing to offer free room and board in exchange for the tenant dressing up and acting like a walrus. Kevin took the story and gave it a twisted, horror-movie feel.
“Why isn’t anyone making this movie?!” he wondered throughout the podcast.  Eventually, he came to the only logical conclusion:
“*I* can make this movie!”
So, being the social media mogul he is, he put it to his Twitter followers.  If they wanted to see the movie made, simply tweet with the hashtag #WalrusYes, if it’s dumb and Kevin should leave it alone, #WalrusNo. The results were pretty astounding: nearly all said #WalrusYes, myself included.
This sounds like a wonderful addition to Kevin Smith’s venture into horror/thriller/suspense.  The premise of the movie being that Wallace (Justin Long) is drugged and held in Manitoba, Canada by an insane recluse, Howard Howe (Michael Parks) hell-bent on surgically altering Wallace to resemble Howe’s most beloved companion from his past: a walrus named Mr. Tusk. I was delighted by Red State, so I was looking for something new to add to my collection.
I won’t bury the lead here: I was pretty disappointed on a lot of factors with this movie.
I’ll be honest, the movie started much like any standard horror/thriller should: light and airy with the ominousness slowly building, however, it was the equivalent of someone telling a decently scary story and ending with a joke. In the 3rd act, when we get introduced to Guy LaPointe (Johnny Depp), an alcoholic ex-cop who has been hunting Howard for years, this is where the movie’s momentum slammed to a screeching halt for me.  I’m not sure what Smith or Depp were going for with this character, but it truly fell way short of my expectations. He was marginally oaf-ish (perhaps due to alcoholism), but not to an Inspector-Clouseau-level.  He was clearly capable of handling the detective work necessary to catch Howard.
LaPointe’s ramblings bored me and made me stop caring what was going on in the movie, which is saying something because I absolutely *love* the monologues Smith puts into his films.  Now, Michael Parks’ performance was stunning and I hung on every word, *EXCEPT* the scene he and Depp shared in a flashback.  Potential “surprise” moments were telegraphed incredibly early. Smith had an opportunity for a truly Twilight Zone-Style ending and it left me wanting.  Smith would often talk at his Q & As as well as on his podcasts that he continued to “push whimsy” with this film. I always figured he meant testing the audience’s suspension of disbelief, not coming two steps from playing “Yakkity Sax” during the movie’s climactic 3rd act scene. The bright spot in this entire movie for me was Parks. His shining example of truly terrifying insanity was what kept me engaged long after I regretted paying full price.
I’ve enjoyed all of Kevin’s works (including Mallrats, Jersey Girl, and Cop Out).  This is not a movie I could recommend to anyone in confidence.  This movie, being the first of what Kevin labeled the “True North Trilogy”, I’m not so sure I can bring myself to watch the other two: Yoga Hosers and MooseJaws, the former centered around Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp’s convenience store characters from Tusk and the latter simply being “Jaws, but with a moose”. Especially since Johnny Depp’s Guy LaPointe character is going to play a more pivotal role in Yoga Hosers.
It’s possible I went in with the wrong frame of mind: expecting something truly suspenseful when the best I would get was a madcap, B-movie romp.  I may end up giving this movie another shot with a different mindset in the future, or I may just accept the fact that Kevin Smith can’t deliver something I’ll enjoy at every opportunity.
I’ll leave you with a bright note,  it takes more than one “bad” movie for me to dislike someone’s future filmography and the (arguable) success of Tusk has allowed Smith to fund Clerks III, which I still intend on seeing. I don’t regret seeing Tusk, I just regret paying full price and not being better prepared for Smith’s definition of “pushing whimsy”.
Thanks for reading,

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