Funny man Kevin Smith is known for his “bro” comedy movies filled with fart jokes and comic book references, but he proved with Red State that he can write serious films too. Tusk combines his knack for comedy with the more serious side of Smith. Adding a talent like Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers), Michael Parks (Red State) and Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense) to Smith’s writing genius made this film a true contender for best horror film of 2014.
Tusk opens like most of Kevin Smith’s other films with some raunchy banter between two guy friends. This time instead of the Quick Stop we get a podcast called Not-See Party (not to be confused with Nazi Party) ran by Wallace Bryton (Long) and Teddy Craft (Osment). The podcast is much like Smith’s very own “Smodcast“. The dialogue between Wallace and Teddy is insanely funny and a lot like the conversations between Dante and Randal in the Clerks films.
Justin Long in Tusk podcast scene
Smith is known for the cameos in his films. This one was chalk full of those. The first cameo by Harley Morenstein (Epic Meal Time) who plays a border patrol officer in the airport. I laughed the entire time he was on the screen. The dialogue between him and Justin Long was by far some of the funniest lines in any comedy. The next cameo was by Smith’s own wife, Jennifer Schwalbach (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) as a waitress. To go along with the Clerks theme, Harley Quinn Smith (Kevin Smith’s daughter) and Lily-Rose Melody Depp (Johnny Depp’s daughter) both appeared as clerks at a Canadian version of the Quick Stop, Eh-2-Zed. Both girls were amazing, they were funny and sweet, but can give some real attitude.
Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Melody Depp
Lily-Rose was not the only Depp to make an appearance, her father, Johnny Depp, had a cameo where he was almost unrecognizable as Guy Lapointe. He has a fairly large role towards the end of the film.
Johnny Depp as Guy Lapointe
The story switches from lighthearted to dark and demented seamlessly in the blink of an eye. Michael Parks goes from a kindhearted old man with a witty sense of humor to a depraved psycho, and it really was frightening how good he was at playing the villain. The way he spoke the words were not all that made his character dark, the look in his eyes was that of a true mad man which help lend more authenticity to the role of Howard Howe.
Michael Parks as Howard Howe
Justin Long was the perfect choice for Wallace. This character was a bit of a scumbag (he cheats on his girlfriend and exploits people for a living) with a very humorous personality. He was almost the guy you love to hate until everything flipped for him. I also thought it was a bit ironic that his character’s name was Wallace which is dangerously close to walrus, well played Mr. Smith, well played.
One thing that I really enjoyed about Tusk was that no matter how dark the scenes became, there was always a comedic relief. The horror and comedy blended together phenomenally without becoming insanely campy. I almost felt bad for laughing through the whole thing because there were such horrible things happening to the title character.
The character of Howard Howe is sympathetic psychopath. He has only been burnt by humanity and found happiness only with a walrus (Mr. Tusk). So was he born a crazy, Dr. Frankenstein type or was he driven there by the coldness of others and the grief of losing the only friend he ever knew?
Not only was this a tale of shock and horror, but I feel it was also a bit of a karma tale. The cheating boyfriend that exploits the misfortune of others for a living gets kidnapped and basically tortured, and a psychopath is betrayed by the one creature that he shared a connection with.
The special effects for this film were outstanding. My biggest concern was about the “walrus suit” and how it was actually going to look. It was amazing, there was a bit of camp to it, but the overall appearance of it was shocking. The best way I can describe it is Frankenstein meets National Geographic. There weren’t really any over the top gory scenes, but the bloody scenes that were in the film were executed very well.
The ending was actually quite sweet. It is not the ending that I saw coming, but it fit the entire story of the film perfectly. It brought the whole film full circle.
I recommend Tusk to fans of Kevin’s other work all the way down to the most hardcore horror junkies. There is something for everyone in this film. Kevin Smith’s best film since Clerks.