Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Tusk
There is no other movie I can think of that gained so much attention toward its “word of mouth” negative reception like Tusk. During its debut last year, there was rarely a person I knew that actually stood in pure defense against it. Granted, there were at least one or two people but most the talk I came across was largely negative and harsh. So much so, that it almost felt like a warning to “not-see” this movie. Avoid at all costs. Abandon all fate ye who view it. Considering this is the Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon, I decided to see what the fuss was about, watched Tusk with an open-mind and….yeah, I don’t think I need the build up to admit that this movie is probably one of the worst I’ve seen. It’s probably in the top 10 as we speak. Instead of going over the story and such, let me break down what doesn’t work for me seeing all the movie’s problems unravel from start to finish.
In this strange horror-comedy, Justin Long plays Wallace Bryton who hosts a podcast that specializes in exploiting viral videos and mocking them but not in a fun way. I guess this is supposed to be a commentary on things like public mocking shows like Tosh.0 but it comes off feeling mean spirited. Aside from the fact that the podcast is called the “Not-See Party” (seriously, how is it popular with a name like THAT?), I found the Wallace character to be highly unlikable. You could argue they do that to make him sympathetic when bad stuff happens but most of the stuff he does is downright mean.
He is vicious on his comedy, he’s a jerk to his best friend (surprisingly played by Haley Joel Osment who is not that bad here) and cheats on his own wife. Not to mention, the motivation for him to get the story going is to interview this kid in Canada that severed his leg when doing a viral sword play video. First off, those kinds of videos where a kid is fooling with a lightsaber ordeal is very outdated to joke about. Second, Wallace treats this as a golden opportunity but why? What sense is there in interviewing someone young that got brutally injured just for extra mockery? I know they are making him very jerky so we see him have this change of heart but it just doesn’t work seeing how much baggage this guy has against. Even worse is when he discovers the kid somehow committed suicide and he’s still focused on trying to find someone weird and bizarre to fill that spot. I’m sorry but what’s the joke here? Kid injures himself and makes a video, podcast host wants to do an interview and said kid kills himself. That’s just harsh.
Anyway, a saving grace comes in the form of Howard Howe (Michael Parks) who advertises that he has stories to tell with fliers around town. Wallace becomes interested but soon finds it to be a trap. And again, the movie tries to do this horror comedy angle and here is where it becomes very obvious at how unbalanced it feels. You see, Howard was once lost at sea but somehow got saved by a walrus. And because of this, he has this huge obsession with walruses to the point he wants to turn Wallace into one. With such a paper thin motive, you wonder just what was going through Howard’s head about this whole walrus thing. And right from that point, you can tell if this movie will be enjoyable or not.
Now, surprisingly something like this could work but what hampers Tusk from being a good movie (or at least some form of entertainment) is the delivery and tone. Kevin Smith wrote and directed this and his films have this very interesting style narrative wise. Instead of visuals motivating the story, its the dialogue and ideology of these characters. His movies like Clerks and Mallrats work because we connect to the conversations these characters have. Their simple, usual potpourri talks often connect to ths story or at least are simple to understand like Star Wars Vs. Lord of the Rings or Jay talking about the Bible and its wonders (see Clerks 2). But here, this is a horror. Visuals and dialogue motivate the story and unfortunately, this movie gets to be interested in being wordy than visual.
Again, long blocks of dialogue can move the story but it has to be done right. And here, we get so much talking and so much conversation that it really drags the movie down. The longer these discussions and arguments go on for, feels like an eternity when things should have been cut out or trimmed. It even goes against the phrase “don’t tell, show” by having key scenes where a character mentions a past moment when it would have been easier just to show it. Sometimes, that can work for something like The Shining or Jaws. Dialogue can make a creepy atmosphere and move the story to where it wants to go to. In Tusk, it just feels like filler.
After what feels like an eternity of discussion, we finally get to see Wallace get horribly transformed into a human walrus by means of human skin and disgusting restructure. The sight and description alone is so horrifying that it’s not worth describing (or showing a picture of for that matter). With the weight of Tusk centered on talking and discussing as the main focus, it really drags the pace down to an uncomfortable level. So much so that when we see the beast in its glory, we can’t relish in the cheesy and ridiculous because of how unpleasant of an experience we had. Even the design itself is too gruesome to comprehend that scenes of Wallace being taught how to eat and swim like a walrus feel grueling to watch. Even the motivation behind this act is so bizarre that it feels like an excuse than a legit reason which I can’t spoil.
Not even Johnny Depp as a laid back detective can’t save this movie. I will admit, the make-up job is not bad and you barley recognize him. There is an essence of a character here that I could get by. But what bogs down is again the amount of dialogue and exposition they throw at you. Depp’s character doesn’t even appear until near the last third of the picture and yet his introduction is very daunting to sit through. After so much scenes with talk and discuss, you think the pain would end. But no, we get an introduction to this new character and then followed by a flashback that lasts for 5 minutes too long to the point it feels like you wasted three hours of your time.
There’s only two things I remotely liked to be honest. One is a pair of convenience store clerks played by Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp’s daughters. The scenes are short but somehow they are at least far more interesting to watch. The second is one small scene when Wallace is trying to call his wife and friend but they don’t answer. Call it cliche but the way it is shot is very clever as see Wallace’s wife not notice the phone ringing and its done from a far wide shot. In a sense, it feels very Hitchcocky and it makes me wish the rest of the movie had this feeling.
Dialogue is a necessity to a story. I understand that but so are visuals and pace. Tusk is so wrapped up in talking about things that it proves to be a dull experience than it should considering its absurd premise. I should be interested in this but the overall execution and amount of talk and talk hammer the enjoyment down. This is probably one of the few movies I have sit through where pace and talk hamper on what could have been a fun film. But as it stands, Tusk is certainly in my top 10 worst films I ever had the misfortune to sit through. Consider this a public service to those curious about this movie; don’t. Just don’t.
Posted on October 19, 2015, in Horror-Wood 2015, Rental Corner and tagged Horror, Horror-Wood, Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon, Johnny Depp, Justin Long, Kevin Smith, Tusk, Walrus. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.