Tusk is a spectacle you have to see at least once to believe. Especially for connoisseurs of “so bad it’s good” films. It’ll become a right of passage to suffer through. As the old adage goes, “curiosity killed the cat,” or, in this specific case, the walrus. The final outcome is the absolute equivalent of those so-called “revolutionary high ideas” your friends have while out of it. A fitting comparison, considering director Kevin Smith conjured up this beautiful mess with an online podcast stoner buddy, all based off some bizarre real life ad. Unfortunately, he didn’t sober up so as to never speak of this too-literal spoof again. He did, however, make it into a full-fledged debacle that’s such a gross waste of brain cells.
It’s apparent Smith has more cash than sense now. Long gone are the days of his creative genius that could be labeled as the lowbrow version of Quentin Tarantino (in reference to his impressive ability to orchestrate relatable, witty, and insightful dialogue with his Jersey Chronicles). But that beloved series has taken a backseat to make way for some truly awful outings, and Tusk is by far the worst offender as of late. The first entry into what will be Smith’s experimentally haphazard True North Trilogy makes The Human Centipede look like the Citizen Kane of the mad scientist realm of schlock. It’s a campy trisk that’s so ridiculous and inept in almost everything it sets out to nail—and, while I genuinely get what Tusk is aiming for in its horror comedy insanity, I don’t even think the likes of SyFy would have the gall to schedule it.
Tusk opens around a pair of online podcasters, Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) and Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment), who call themselves The Not-See Party (har har har). The shock jock banter like that becomes immediately grating, and it’s sole purpose only seems to exist to stroke the ego of Smith’s lucrative hobby. It also doesn’t let up when Wallace and Teddy poke fun at a Canadian viral sensation known as the “Kill Bill Kid” (aforementioned Tarantino reference pure coincidence) for accidentally hacking his leg off with a ninja sword. This quickly leads Wallace to visit our neighbors to the north to shamelessly interview the poor sap and continue to rub salt in his crappy CGI wound. But the “Kill Bill Kid” beats Wallace to the proverbial punch by killing himself before the mean-spirited smut piece can be milked further.
The trip appears to be in vain until Wallace finds a handbill from lonely retired seaman, Howard Howe (Michael Parks), who promises a free room and lifetime of interesting stories in his remote mansion. Before Tusk begins to fly off the rails at breakneck speeds, Smith naturally can’t help but to get some more stereotypical potshots in on Canadians that has already happened periodically. As Wallace asks for directions to Bifrost, Smith’s daughter is shoehorned in as a slack-jawed store clerk to point him to his ill-advised doom. She’s also accompanied by Johnny Depp’s daughter, a favor that surely got him to agree to do his most infamous cameo since Adam Sandler’s magnum opus, Jack and Jill. Well that, and being able to deliver a ham-fisted French Quebec impersonation to throw onto his stale quirky repertoire.
Once Wallace arrives you’re just waiting for the Secobarbital to take effect in his tea while he and Howard play off of each other’s fake pleasantries. While there’s absolutely no suspense, due to the trailer revealing the sinister intentions, it’s in these exchanges Tusk does get something right. Both Long and Parks initially put more into their eccentric performances than is honestly warranted, and with more polishing, this film could’ve meant so much more to its assigned genre. Ally Leon (Genesis Rodriguez), Wallace’s supportively neglected girlfriend, also provides a couple of intimate scenes that feel oddly human in this alien film. It’s a frustrating experience because you can see Smith’s dormant talents pop up on occasion only to be overshadowed by the nightmare fuel that starts to suffocate his confused creature-feature.
It makes for a jarring analysis on the characters when as soon as you’re beginning to like them they’re exposed as total assholes in jumbled flashbacks. A majority of these scenes become downright annoying as they’re revisited just to offer a different point of view on important details that pull the rug out from any sympathy or desire for redemption. It’s impossible to avoid the notion of the cast and crew having no clue how to consistently do their jobs, yet trying so damn hard to restore some vision. It simply feels as if a full rough draft and multiple edited final versions were slapped on and sent out for them to hopefully salvage to the best of their abilities. This makes Tusk utterly void of any coherent or fleshed out behaviors meant to elicit a single drop of emotion, no matter how convincing the actors sell their specific roles.
Even the attempt at creepy vibes over Howard sharing ominous tales before and during his experimentations on Wallace have no meat on their bones. Every reenacted memory depicted makes you cringe in a disjointed haze, as the squeamish mutilation scenes Tusk keeps cutting back to beg to be grotesque, but are somehow in the most vanilla fashion possible. So what you’re left with is a film that is neither the slightest bit morbidly funny or terrifying, and thus fails astronomically, even as a satire of sorts. By the time detective Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp) shows up to rear his ugly prosthetic covered mug, to ramble on about why Howard is off his rocker, your mind is ready to check out. To a degree you’ll be reaching for a vomit bag at the rundown of his moniker, “The First Wife” killer, for the clichéd textbook no-nos attached to it.
In the end, there’s far too many moments that might as well have Smith dawning his Silent Bob persona, appearing from the bottom of the screen, and holding up a banner that exclaims, “Meta joke!” To top it all off there’s an idiotic twist of M. Night Shyamalan proportions that everyone will see coming from a mile away—and that’s not even including the blood boiling climax you’ll have to endure. The biggest laugh Tusk provides, aside from the tagline, “I don’t want to die in Canada,” or Long being reduced to moans and snarls for the last half, is Tarantino himself sternly turned down an invite to be in this film. Since this is the third time that iconic director has been linked, take that as a sign to stick with his work instead. But hey, at least this toxic bomb made enough cash back to fund the long-awaited Clerks 3. Success?