With “Tusk,” director Kevin Smith completely rips off Stephen King and Tom Six, mixing together “Human Centipede” and “Misery” in to one really awful concoction that I was barely able to make it through. Serving as a simultaneous ad for his crappy podcast, this time rather than James Caan as a respected writer, Justin Long is an amoral moronic podcaster whose own celebrity status has transformed him in to a fame obsessed pseudo-Howard Stern. Much like Kevin Smith. I can only laugh at Smith’s self-congratulatory inference that today’s podcaster is the modern storyteller like the writer. But hey, at least he got to squeeze in obligatory cameos from his and Johnny Depp’s daughter.
Wallace (Get it?) Bryton is a podcaster for a very popular podcast called “The Notsee Party” where he travels around the world exploiting basket cases for the amusement of his friend and co-host Teddy. Justin Long and Haley Joel Osment play the pair of friends, both of whom enjoy a video of a kid playing with a sword that ends in him accidentally amputating his own leg. When Wallace travels to Canada to meet him, he learns the boy has committed suicide and seeks out a new interview subject. He answers an ad by Howard Howe, a reclusive old man who lives in a mansion and spins yarns about life in the military and his fateful meeting with a walrus he named Tusk. Wallace passes out during the interview, and awakens to learn that Howard is dead set on turning Wallace in to his beloved Tusk.
Much of Smith’s own foreshadowing is absolutely ridiculous, with endless plays on words that are utterly stupid and leave no dramatic impact whatsoever. For example, Wallace is almost gleeful at the sight of the boy cutting his own leg off, and after being drugged awakens to a leg missing. Howard then tells Wallace he was bitten by a brown Recluse spider. Get it? Because Howard is a recluse. “Tusk” is a movie void of entertainment value and any kind of commentary, and drones on for ninety minutes with a sluggish narrative. Smith can’t even seem to muster up the strength to like his own characters, depicting Wallace as an amoral tool, his girlfriend as a spiteful shrew, and his own friend as an opportunistic loser. Smith also gets off on mocking Canada, a new home base for future films, and then completely dives head first in to ripping off Tom Six’s idea about a mad man obsessed with turning humans in to some sort of animal or creature.
And just like “Human Centipede,” Smith’s “Tusk” is empty, hollow, and has nothing to say about anything. Smith is so in love with patting himself on the back with cameos, monotonous exposition, and droning dialogue that’s snappy and fast paced but relays absolutely zero information for the audience. For example, Wallace’s discussion with an eccentric border agent drones on for ten minutes and serves zero purpose to the overall film. Like all of Smith films, “Tusk” is a love letter to what Kevin Smith can do when he sets his mind to imitating other filmmakers (the final scene shamefully rips off “The Fly II”), and it’s an excruciating experience. It’s made even worse considering Smith can never decide if he’s directing a twisted horror movie, or a self-aware meta-horror comedy. Justin Long can also never seem to figure it out either, with an uneven and often embarrassing turn.
At times, “Tusk” aims for pitch black comedy, including the excessive shots of Justin Long in a walrus outfit, and a climactic battle between Long and his kidnapper Howard in walrus outfits. He then shifts over to stern horror with Michael Parks’ tragically demented psychopath, and the nearly gleeful monologue by Genesis Rodriguez who wishes something terrible would happen to Wallace after knowledge of repeated affairs. To add to the tonal confusion, Johnny Depp appears before the finale as a French detective buried under bad make up, who is hunting for Howard Howe. Depp’s performance is god awful, painfully stupid, and immediately brings down any chance the film has at redeeming itself. “Tusk” is just another really juvenile and inconsistent genre outing from Smith, who still can’t decide if he wants to be a comedy director, or a horror director. He’s terrible at both.