I feel like the less that you know about Tusk, the better. This is one really weird movie, and while its “twist” happens pretty early on, and might even be spoiled given the film’s title, I’m going to avoid mentioning it. Admittedly, you’ll have to trust me more when I tell you that it’s really, really, really weird, or maybe you’ll just go spoil it for yourself. I don’t even know if, in all honesty, I’d recommend seeing Tusk, but it’s so weird that you might want to just because of that.
The plot: Wallace (Justin Long) and Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) host a profane podcast which generates a $100,000 a year in advertising, so they can basically do whatever they want. After seeing a video of some kid acting out Kill Bill scenes, and subsequently chopping off his own leg, they decide that Wallace should go up to Canada and interview him. Yes, it’s tasteless, but tasteless sells. Upon arriving in Canada, Wallace learns that the kid took his own life, presumably from the humiliation that the video caused him. Needing a story, Wallace goes to a bar in order to find an interesting person.
Instead, he finds a letter pinned to the bulletin board that makes claims of many interesting tales just waiting to be shared. Two hours north of Winnipeg, and Wallace finds himself in the house of Howard Howe (Michael Parks), who does, indeed, have stories. He talks of meeting Ernest “Ernie” Hemingway, and of being saved by a walrus whom he named “Mr. Tusk.” And then Wallace passes out, which is where I leave the setting up of the story.
Are you intrigued? Does this sound like a generic captive story? Well, it doesn’t become that. Not in the least bit. Eventually, Teddy and Wallace’s girlfriend, Ally (Génesis Rodríguez), head out to find Wallace, aided in their quest by a former Quebec cop (Guy Lapointe). But what goes on in Howard Howe’s house is anything but conventional, and it wound up resulting in the biggest laugh-out-loud moment I’ve had in some time. And, no, it’s not because it’s supposed to be funny.
Tusk is supposed to be disturbing, and in some ways it is. It’s very weird, as I already mentioned, but some of the things that happen are quite unsettling. But it’s also a riot, simply because of how outlandish its plot gets. It’s true that you probably haven’t seen anything like this before, but that’s because nothing like this should have been made. But then there’s Kevin Smith, who came up with the idea of this film as a joke on his own podcast, and now has directed it as a serious horror movie. It’s too silly and stupid to take seriously, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly compelling.
I mean, the simple fact of the matter is that, regardless of intention and success, you won’t see anything like Tusk, unless of course copycats show up in the years to come. And for the novelty value alone, as well as some incredibly big laughs because of how ridiculous this premise is, it’s almost worth seeing. It’s a bad movie, but it’s a funny bad movie that wasn’t boring and that kept me entertained, even if it was or all the wrong reasons.
If there’s one area at which Tusk genuinely succeeds, it’s in the performances. Michael Parks was the only good thing about Smith’s previous film, Red State, and he once again shows that he’s a great actor even in stupid and ridiculous movies here. He’s a captivating actor, almost in spite of anything that goes on around him. Justin Long has to do things I bet Justin Long thought he’d never have to do as an action, and at least seems committed to the role. Guy Lapointe, as he’s credited in the film, looks strangely like a much more famous actor, and is funny to watch just because of that “resemblance.”
Tusk might be a complete failure of a horror movie, but it’s very funny and far too strange to completely ignore. It goes places you probably wish it wouldn’t, and is never scary or dramatic. It’s weird and unintentionally funny, as well as filled with performances that are captivating — and that’s regardless of whether they’re good or bad. Tusk is an oddity, and while it’s not a good movie, those looking for a very weird movie might find it worthwhile.