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{Movie Review}Tusk Is The Most Disturbing Film Based On A True Story

I am not the walrus, coo, coo, kachu.  Full of body horror and claustrophobia Tusk is one disgusting film.

Tusk by director Kevin Smith and starring Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Michael Parks, Genesis Rodriguez, and Johnny Depp is quite possibly the weirdest most viscerally deranged movie I have ever seen. That is saying a lot considering I have seen A Serbian Film, Cannibal Holocaust, The Green Inferno, and all the Human Centipedes. What makes this movie so wrong is the truly abhorrent behavior of almost everyone in the movie. Even the “good guys” are pretty terrible. That’s not to say anyone deserves to be turned into a human walrus, it’s just they are all kind of dicks. 

This is one twisted freak show. The horror of this film hits you from all angles  It is so off-putting and has such abrupt shifts in tone it is impossible to settle in and get comfortable. The film is based on an English ad on a free website. This self-described poet/prankster(whatever that is), Chris Parkinson posted an ad posing as an elderly gentleman looking for a border to dress as a walrus for two hours every day in exchange for free rent. The ad turned out to be a complete hoax, Parkinson’s idea of a prank, but Smith thought it sounded like the beginning of a great story. Click here to see the original posting. 

Only the mind of Kevin Smith could come up with something so elaborate from something so small. Just as Smith can’t quite figure out if this is a horror movie or one dark AF comedy the audience never quite knows if they are meant to laugh or be nauseated. You are never sure if you are in on the joke or if you are the joke. This dichotomy makes for one strange, and not altogether pleasant viewing experience.

The effects are really good, which just makes things that much creepier. Once we start getting into the meat of things, there is a tad too much saliva and stitching for comfort. What happens as Justin Long’s Wallace descends into physical and mental Hell is presented with an unflinching eye. The transformation is grotesque, to say the least, and utterly depressing. Therein lies the intelligence behind the ludicrous. This film presented as a gaff with ghastly imagery seems to skewer itself the most with its cutting commentary on entertainment today. When comedy is all there is, and nothing is taboo there is no room for anything else. That is bleak to the extreme, but it is entirely true for Smith who delivers a thousand paper cuts disguised as laughs for the hour and forty-two minutes the movie runs.

As much as this is a horror movie it is also an excellent case study of human nature.  No one in this movie gets out unscathed. There are no sympathetic good guys we hope desperately will escape, or girlfriends with hearts of gold left to pick up the pieces. There are just various shades of awful. Wallace’s partner Teddy(Haley Joel Osment) gleefully laughs along with Wallace over the suicide of one of their internet curiosities and is cheating on Wallace’s girlfriend Ally(Genesis Rodriguez) every single time Wallace leaves town. Wallace is so confident of his own brilliance and myopically focused on being famous he never questions his surroundings until it is too late. The old man in question, Howard(Michael Parks) is at least insane. His experiments were all formulated by a deranged mind, not just a terrible person. 

In an odd way, he is the most sympathetic character in the film. For the most part, the movie wants to ask the most basic of questions. What does it mean to be human? Unfortunately for Wallace, that question gets answered in the most agonizing way possible. Humans are capable of extreme cruelty. We are far more malicious than any creature. Mark Twain famously said, “Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one who inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.” Smith is clearly channeling those sentiments.

The casting is superb. Justin Long emotes terrific pain in those giant brown eyes of his and retains just enough of the boyish charm we loved him for in Jeepers Creepers to keep us watching when things start to go South. Osment is as slimy as a greased pig, and Michael Parks is profoundly disconcerting. His need to prove humans can be made into walruses is so all-encompassing he makes your skin crawl. His ability to deliver Howard’s overly complicated stories with panache is effective. Johnny Depp is bizarre and over the top in his role as the Police Inspector from Quebec, Canada. In fact, every scene that he is in feels cartoonish and outlandish. It is almost as if director Kevin Smith was declaring here is the comedic interlude cause I know you need a break from all the grossness. With the exception of Nic Cage, no one does totally absurd better than Depp. He brings a particularly peculiar energy to his inspector and the film desperately needs that shift in tone to make it through the horror unfolding.

The sly “Based on a true story” line at the beginning is delivered with a laugh. Smith himself tells us right from the beginning this movie is not to be taken seriously. More than anything else, Smith should have applied that sharp critique to his own screenplay. The story never really goes anywhere, and all of the best commentaries get lost behind fart jokes and cheap thrills. Maybe that was the point all along? If you like gross stuff, seeing Depp be kooky, or are just curious, stream this movie now on Netflix. There are not enough hot showers to take away the stench, but if you don’t take it too seriously, and just enjoy watching bad things happen to bad people you will like it just fine.

3 thoughts on “{Movie Review}Tusk Is The Most Disturbing Film Based On A True Story

  1. I think everything you said is true; I just saw the movie for the first time, Tusk!!! OMG I literally threw up my stomach is sick and I’m traumatized. I really think if it was not for Jhonny Deep this movie would’ve never came together the way it did. Thanks for your article.

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