Tusk was first mentioned as an ad in the UK-based classified site Gumtree as a plant for Kevin Smith by poet-prankster Chris Parkinson, further elaborated upon in episode 259 of Smith’s SModcast in 2013, and voted into production via the #WalrusYes Twitter campaign shortly thereafter — the Clerks veteran’s newest effort as feature writer/director proves just as hilariously ridiculous as its premise wants you to believe.
Nationally popular podcaster and collector of bizarre human interest stories, Wallace Bryton (Justin Long), follows a lead in Canada after his initial query has gone cold. After chancing upon an ad in a Winnipeg bar bathroom promising tales of adventures at sea, Wallace invites himself to the woodsy Bifrost manse solely inhabited by the dry witted and elderly Howard Howe (Michael Parks). Instead of podcast material, Wallace comes to after a nefarious “spider bite” finding himself down one leg and being told that he will be surgically fashioned into his captor’s serendipitously met companion of a desperate youthhood moment stranded at sea, the walrus Mr. Tusk.
From thereon, the tale of Wallace Bryton’s transformation into Mr. Tusk is dark indeed, albeit not without a steady and measured dose of cringeworthy chuckling metered evenly throughout the ninety-minute runtime. Despite Wallace’s gruesome transmutation, Smith peppers the chronological narrative with enough flashback scenes between Wallace and his girlfriend Allison (Genesis Rodriguez) that show him as a callous and inconsiderate egotist, that it was hard to feel sympathetic to his grim reshaping or the emotional anguish at his realization at the impossibility of regaining his corporeal humanity. Such moments of self-reflection allow Wallace to become intimately familiar with the dark side of karma, which thus frees the audience to enjoy the nearly allegorical humor of the situation instead of caring too deeply about the brutal reality of his fate.
When the evolution of the narrative is just about to drag at the middle as Allison and Wallace’s friend and co-anchor, Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment), struggle to pick up Wallace’s trail in Canada, a new character is introduced at just the right time to reinvigorate the plot, Guy Lapointe, Montreal ex-cop turned amateur detective obsessed with the dozens of cold disappearance and murder cases possibly related to Howard Howe.
Lapointe, unknowing possessor of a goofy accent, strange mannerisms and subtle mistranslations of a French-Canadian caricature, plays a great comic foil counterpart to the terrible reality of Allison/Teddy; Lapointe’s inadvertent humor loosens what would otherwise be frantic and tense scenes as Wallace’s only friends search for whatever remains of him. Credited only as Guy Lapointe, I recommend forgoing the search engine and trying to guess the actor and give yourself the satisfaction of correct guesswork; most are familiar with his films, and it may not take long until moments of certain personal vocal tones and mannerisms betray the mystery.
If you are in the mood for some dark tongue in cheek humor and can see the potential for amusement in modern horror tropes, I recommend Tusk to fans of either genre.
Photos courtesy of: A24 Films