The 400-Word Review: Tusk

By Sean Collier

September 24, 2014

Nothing like a dainty tea party before transforming someone into a walrus.

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Some might herald the development of Tusk, Kevin Smith’s latest horror film and the first in a presumptive trilogy, as a success for populist cinema. The film’s story was conceived after Smith and producer Scott Mosier discussed a news-of-the-weird item — a posting from a man offering free room and board as long as the tenant agreed to dress as a walrus for two hours per day — on their podcast. They riffed on the idea for an hour, then put the question to Twitter: should this concept be turned into a film?

The fans cried yes, and Smith followed through. Tusk is the result.

But this is not a popular uprising; it is not the independent filmmaker being carried into the limelight. Smith is very famous and very popular; a million small-time podcasters could throw out cinematic gold, and it would fall on deaf ears. Contrary to what he might believe, Kevin Smith is not the little guy raging against the system. Nor is the film’s stamp of approval by Twitter evidence of demand; Smith asked his own fans if they thought he should make a movie. It could’ve been anything. They would’ve said yes.

Oh, right. The movie.


Wallace (Justin Long) is a failed comic turned podcaster who searches for bizarre figures and experiences to mock. He leaves his co-host Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) and girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) in L.A. as he heads to Canada in pursuit of the freak of the week; when he finds that his target has died, however, he answers a mysterious bulletin board posting in hopes of locating a backup schmuck.

After a two-hour drive into the Canadian wild, he arrives at the home of Howard Howe (Michael Parks,) an ailing seaman eager to share his stories. The trouble begins when Wallace passes out as the result of spiked tea; he wakes up without a leg, Howe reveals his monstrous intentions and a fairly serviceable premise is chucked aside like a used Timbits carton in favor of the ridiculous and cheap.

Parks is so committed (as is Johnny Depp as a disgraced Quebecois detective) that Tusk almost salvages something, but Smith — as director, writer and editor — is so married to his awful idea that no hope for passability remains. By the time the Halloween-store walrus suit makes its debut, you won’t even be sufficiently invested to muster a laugh.

My Rating: 2/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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