Tusk (read our review) is not for everyone. Kevin Smith’s newest flick is, first and foremost, meant for Kevin Smith fans. If you didn’t like Clerks or Mallrats, Tusk is not for you. (Don’t worry; no one liked Dogma.) I love Kevin Smith, and I love bizarre flicks, so I had a blast with Tusk.
In Tusk, Justin Long plays Wallace, a mean-spirited podcaster who travels to Canada to interview the unwitting star of a viral video. He gets there and discovers the kid is dead, so he has no story. While taking a depressed piss in a bar, he discovers an unusually verbose advert from a man looking for a lodger. The lodger will pay no rent, but must run errands for the enfeebled man, who promises many wonderful tales from his life. Wallace decides to pay this man, Howard Howe (played by Michael Parks), a visit. If you have spent any time on the internet in the last year, you know what is coming. Howe wants to recreate a special relationship he once had with a walrus, so he drugs Wallace and sews him into his homemade walrus suit, made out of the skin of murdered humans.
“I was always kind of worried the hardcore genre crowd would be like, ‘This isn’t a horror movie!’” explains writer/director Kevin Smith. “They did that on Red State, and they were right. I called it a horror movie because to me, that was horrifying. I can’t technically call Tusk a horror movie, although it plays like a scary movie. To me, it’s a monster movie.” He admits that, technically, he would consider it “body horror” like The Human Centipede, which was something of an inspiration for this movie, despite the fact that Smith has never seen it. “My wife is like, ‘Never in this house, motherfucker.’
“The notion of [The Human Centipede] rocked my fucking world. I was like, you can do that now?? Tom Six was brave enough to make something so fucked up that, even in one sentence, I feel like I’ve seen it. That was inspiration,” Smith admits. He also names Frankenstein and Dr. Moreau as inspiration, but concedes that “American Werewolf in London is probably where I stole from the most. That was the movie that, when I was nine years old, was utterly horrifying. The dream sequence where the SS wolves come in and cut their fucking throats, but then, in the very next scene, they make you laugh. For Tusk, I wanted to honor that model and show [the audience] something fucking weird, then make them laugh like they are in a completely different film.”
Appearing in a film about a man whose greatest wish is to turn another human into a walrus seems like a risky career move to me. It wasn’t an easy decision for the cast. “My agents definitely didn’t want me to do it,” confides Justin Long, something which Smith found “really charming.” “I was intrigued by the prospect of getting to do those scenes with Michael, and by the challenge of that completed transformation,” continues Long. “I needed to challenge myself. It was scary – it wasn’t like a no-brainer, but I knew I was going to do it because I was a big fan of Kevin’s. It was because of my fear [of the role] that I had to do it.” Haley Joel Osment, who plays Teddy, Wallace’s podcasting partner, was less fearful of his role. “Part of me felt kind of safe because I’m not in the walrus costume. We gave Justin a lot of grief: we get to run around with guns and Johnny Depp, he gets tortured a lot.” Unsurprisingly, Smith didn’t face a lot of resistance on his end. “Everyone in my world was like, ‘Oh, he’s showing an interest in movies again. Ssh, let him do it.’”
Tusk opens in theaters September 19th.