Starring Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, and Johnny Depp. Rated 14A.
Kevin Smith’s podcast-spawned Tusk has to be one of the most insane horror-comedies I’ve ever seen. Considering how supergonzo it is, I’m surprised I didn’t like it more.
The movie opens with self-absorbed L.A. podcaster Wallace (Justin Long) and his best friend, Teddy (Haley Joel Osment), in the midst of one of their puerile “Not-See Party” episodes, in which Canuck Internet sensation the Kill Bill Kid accidentally slices off his own leg. Hoping to capitalize on the gory mishap, Wallace heads up to Winnipeg to interview the KBK, only to learn that he’s already killed himself. “I’m gonna find another Canadian weirdo up here,” he vows, punctuating it with the Great White North theme (“Kooo-loo-koo-koo koo-loo-koo-kooo!”).
Wallace finds his weirdo, all right: a wheelchair-bound, 70-something world traveller named Howard Howe (Michael Parks), who serves the obnoxious Yank drug-laced tea and stirs his imagination with wild tales of seagoing adventure. The tea knocks him out just after Howe tells of being lost at sea and stranded on an island with a heroic walrus that becomes his saviour and companion.
When Wallace awakens, Howe blames his blacking-out on a brown recluse spider—one whose bite also required the amputation of his left leg above the knee. Riffing on Misery’s Annie Wilkes, Howe transforms from genial caregiver into sadistic tormentor. “If you want to continue living you will be a walrus or you will be nothing at all,” threatens the madman before doing his surgical best to gruesomely transform Wallace into said marine mammal.
Parks is by far the best thing about Tusk—at times his enigmatic psycho is as riveting as Hannibal Lecter, with a touch of Walter White thrown in—and when he’s not on-screen you wonder where the hell the entertainment went. The introduction halfway through of an oddball Québécois detective (an uncredited Johnny Depp in heavy makeup) steers the story in a ludicrously unfunny direction before it goes off the rails entirely as a crazed body-horror trainwreck.
Oh yeah, right—that’s why I didn’t like it more.