Sunday 5 July 2015


I'm not one of those long time Kevin Smith fans that thinks he's shit now. Then again, neither am I one of those Kevin Smith fans that still love him. I haven't seen many of his films before, and apart from watching and enjoying both Clerks and Dogma, I'm not really sure what he's truly capable of as a writer/director. Going into Tusk I had no preconceptions of how good or bad it could be, and without ever seeing a trailer to the film, I really did go into this one blind. So, with Tusk being Smith's first widespread release since 2010, is it worth a watch?

Directed by Kevin Smith and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Tusk, a movie that's ¾ great and ¼ utter crap. The story for Tusk originated from a brainstorming session from Kevin Smith's podcast, SModcast. Tusk opens up with two friends, Wallace and Teddy, and their hugely popular podcast, The Not-See Party. After a video of a kid accidentally slicing off his leg with a katana goes viral online, Wallace decides to take to the road and venture into Canada in order to interview the kid. However, once Wallace gets to the kids house he discovers that the kid recently killed himself. Being a total shithead as he was only interested in an interview, Wallace keeps his eyes open for any more local “Canadian weirdos” to give him some kind of story for his podcast. In the bathroom of a bar he finds a letter written by an elderly local guy, a letter that mentions the fact that he has many adventures and stories to tell about his life. Wallace goes to the old guys and meets him. His name is Howard Howe, he's wheelchair bound and lives a very solitary life in his large house. After giving Wallace some tea, Howe begins to tell a story of how as a young man he was lost at sea. He was then seemingly saved by a Walrus, and this Walrus treated him like its own. This was an important time in Howe's life, and is ultimately the catalyst for his perverse endgame. Wallace slowly falls unconscious from the spiked tea, but eventually learns Howe's plan for him; Howe wants to both surgically and mentally transform Wallace into a Walrus. Yep.

OK, first the good. The first half of Tusk is genuinely brilliant. Though Kevin Smith's Clerks humour kicks off the movie, as soon as he reaches Howe's it goes full horror. This is mostly thanks to the bloody excellent dialogue and exchanges between Wallace and Howe, as before any foul play occurs, their initial meeting is smart, funny and, of course, unsettling. As soon as Howe's plan becomes obvious the movie gets pretty dark, and quickly jumps from having an unsettling atmosphere to going straight for shocking body horror. Once Wallace's transformation is complete into becoming a Walrus (don't worry, it's not that far into the movie), there are scenes of him screaming and moaning in pain, being forced to swim by Howe and even being starved and then fed raw fish. It's really f*ucking creepy, and throughout these excellent scenes both Justin Long (Wallace) and Michael Parks (Howe) are at the top of their game. Also within the first half of the film is a nice use of flashbacks. These help flesh out Wallace's back-story and his relationship with his best friend Teddy and his girlfriend, Ally. They're only brief but they add an extra layer to each character as the movie progresses.

Now the bad. After Teddy and Ally go looking for Wallace, they come into contact with Guy Lapointe, played by none other than Johnny Depp. This is where Tusk falls apart. Back at Howe's house the horror still continues and is both disturbing and interesting to watch unfold, but once Johnny Depp turns up the mission to rescue Wallace is utterly awful. The scenes with Lapointe play out like they're trying to be like Clerks, but just come across like some cheap imitation, all the while Depp plays the character like something from a Carry On movie. Because of all of this, after the halfway point Tusk jumps from scenes to a tortured Wallace stitched together into a Walrus-like body, to Johnny Depp doing a funny voice, crushing a slider into a flat sandwich and just dishing out piles of inane chatter and shitty conversations. Simply put, both Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp take what was an almost brilliant horror film and f*ck it up. Like seriously, they don't just derail it, they derail it into an orphanage full of children and fluffy kittens.

At its best Tusk is a great body horror. It's shocking, disturbing and, at the right times, funny. At its worst it's cringe-worthy in its attempt to inject inane jokes into every line of dialogue. Like I said in the opening of this review, most of Tusk is really, really good, and far better than most other reviewers are letting on. However, once Depp turns up it all just falls apart, and ultimately loses the chance to become truly great. Depp's appearance just screams of “HEY LOOK IT'S JOHNNY DEPP!!!!!!!”. A shame. With the upcoming spin-off Yoga Hosers looking to star Depp and both his and Kevin Smith's daughters, it sounds like it's already failed in terms of its leading cast. But hey, at least we'll always half the first half of Tusk, right?

Tusk could have been fantastic, but is demoted to a decent enough 3/5.


Denis Murphy

Tusk at CeX

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