Kevin Smith has a very interesting career. He started with his black & white comedy classic, Clerks (also one of my favorite movies of all time), and then moved his way into the studio system with Mallrats which has developed a cult following and has become a definitive movie of 90s culture (for good reason). Then he had Chasing Amy, one of his only fairly serious flicks and a very good one as well. We keep on moving down the list and most of the films are wacky comedies, some great, some not so great, but overall, a fairly decent career. But I feel the need to make a stop at Red State, his film before Tusk, a 2011 horror/comedy with a religious twist also starring Michael Parks. To me, this is a newer turn in Kevin Smith’s career, one of more self-awareness, one of complete surrealism, and really, a filmmaker who is making movies nobody is making. I’ll be honest, I have some bias for this review, I love Kevin Smith. I love his podcasts, I love his movies, I love his optimism, and I love almost everything he has done. I was guaranteed to love Tusk, as I was one of those people who listened to SModcast 259, The Walrus and the Carpenter, the episode that established the idea for the movie. It was so ridiculous, completely absurd, and I was totally on board. Mainstream filmmakers don’t make crazy shit like this! A movie about a guy who turns another guy into a walrus? #WalrusYes
The movie begins with Wallace Bryton, played wonderfully, awkwardly, and amazingly by Justin Long (and a wonderful mustache) who does a popular podcast The Not-See Party (what a fucking name) with Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment). It is somewhat autobiographical to Kevin Smith himself in terms of him being a popular podcaster who simply tells weird, quirky stories to his friend, just like SModcast with Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier. Wallace ends up heading up to Canada to investigate a story about a kid but that ends up not working out (rather not spoil it because it’s a pretty nice joke) and he finds an ad in a barroom bathroom about a man who sailed around and has great ‘stories’ to tell. That man is played by Michael Parks. And holy shit, Michael Parks. He is absolutely insane. Just absolutely fucking bonkers. And he chews the scenery up for good reason because the movie knows that it’s kind of dumb and crazy and absolutely absurd.
The really amazing thing is that even the movie’s exposition before the crazy walrus shit happens is actually really, really entertaining and interesting. Michael Parks’ character has these crazy, interesting stories and Justin Long is just so unbelievably enthusiastic on screen that even the exposition really holds up very well (where as most horror films tend to have kind of shitty exposition). It made me more interested in the idea of just ‘storytelling’ as Michael Parks tells his stories. Oddly, it made me realize that as a person who wants to make art somehow as a living, I really just have an interest in storytelling whether it is in film, podcasting, writing, or whatever, anyway I can get a story across. I didn’t expect this movie to have that strange effect on me at all and it made the exposition that much more special.
Honestly though, once the movie gets into the nitty-gritty craziness of a man being turned into a walrus, I had a big, goofy smile on my face for the rest of the movie (well, I had one on my face for most of the movie to be perfectly honestly). When the full-on walrus costume is revealed, I fucking lost my shit. I laughed, I smiled, and I had shivers down my spine. You don’t see shit like this at the movies anymore! I’m telling you, you just don’t! And that in itself makes Tusk fucking awesome! I was laughing scene after scene and really did, as I mentioned, have a big, goofy smile on my face. I couldn’t help it. I haven’t had this much fun at the movies in a really long time. The absolute strangeness of Tusk is going to stick with me for quite some time. It’s hard for me to outright recommend Tusk though. For some people, it simply won’t be their cup of tea (just like the cup of tea in the movie…those who’ve seen it will get what I’m talking about…). It’ll be too weird, too surreal, and too fucked-up. It also might not work for people who aren’t “in” on the joke; they simply won’t know the backstory of this strange fucking film. Kevin Smith fans are going to love this movie. People who love weird shit like Troma movies or just weird horror-comedy flicks are going to go absolutely crazy for this movie. The general audience though? Probably won’t care for it too much. I truly think this is the best film Kevin has made since Clerks. It’s crazy, it’s amazing, it’s jaw dropping, and it might be my favorite movie of 2014 so far. It will not leave my head, that walrus costume will never ever leave my head, Michael Parks and Justin Long’s performances will certainly stick with me, and goddammit, any movie that inspires me to write more surreal shit of my own is a good movie in my eyes. I had a damn blast-watching Tusk. Go see it. Support this movie. I want more weird shit like this to somehow slip through the cracks of Hollywood. I want everyone to remember something though, you might have this weird idea for a piece of art you want to make and it might seem stupid or really dumb but Tusk is proof that it isn’t dumb, it just might be a fucking awesome idea that works.
Author of this post (and every post thus far and maybe forever):
Jesse Jordon is an aspiring comedic writer/filmmaker/performer/guy who just really wants to tell stories somehow and I hope you’ll follow him on Twitter @WhyShitSoCrazy. (Wait, why did I just change point of view when I’m the only one writing this?)