Tusk (2014 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kevin Smith|
|Written by||Kevin Smith|
|Music by||Christopher Drake|
|Edited by||Kevin Smith|
|Box office||$1.9 million|
Tusk is a 2014 American comedy body horror film written and directed by Kevin Smith, based on a story from his SModcast podcast. The film stars Michael Parks, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, and Genesis Rodriguez. The film is the first in Smith's planned True North trilogy, followed by Yoga Hosers (2016).
Best friends Wallace Bryton and Teddy Craft host the popular podcast The Not-See Party, where they find and mock humiliating viral videos. Wallace flies to Canada to interview the Kill Bill Kid, an Internet celebrity famous for severing his leg with a katana. Upon arriving in Manitoba, he is surprised to learn that the Kill Bill Kid committed suicide. Upset that he flew to Canada for nothing, he decides to find another person to interview. He finds a handbill from someone offering a room in his home for free and the guarantee of hearing interesting stories. Interested, he arrives at the mansion of Howard Howe, a retired seaman in a wheelchair. Howard tells the story of how a walrus, whom he named "Mr. Tusk", rescued him after a shipwreck. Wallace passes out from the secobarbital laced in the tea Howard made for him. The next morning, Wallace wakes up to find himself strapped into a wheelchair and his left leg amputated. Howard not only reveals that he can still walk, but lays out his plans: he plans to fit Wallace into a perfectly constructed walrus costume in an attempt to recreate Mr. Tusk. After Wallace sends a voicemail to his girlfriend Ally and Teddy, Howard knocks him unconscious.
Now aware that Wallace is in danger, Ally and Teddy fly to Canada. Back at the mansion, Howard continues to mutilate and alter Wallace, to whom he tells his backstory: a Duplessis orphan, he was physically and sexually abused for five years by the clergy who fostered him. He sews Wallace into a walrus costume made of human skin, complete with tusks made from the tibia bones from Wallace's severed legs. A local detective puts Ally and Teddy in touch with Guy LaPointe, a former Sûreté du Québec inspector who has been hunting Howard for years. In local burger joint, LaPointe reveals that Howard, nicknamed "The First Wife", has been kidnapping and murdering people for years; he believes Wallace may still be alive, but not as they remember him.
Howard conditions Wallace to think and act as a walrus. Howard reveals that shortly before being rescued, he had killed and eaten Mr. Tusk. Overcome with guilt, he has spent the last 15 years turning his victims into his beloved savior in an attempt to relive their last day and give Mr. Tusk another chance at survival. With Howard dressed in his own homemade pelt, the two become engaged in a fight that ends with Wallace impaling Howard on his tusks; Howard dies, but is satisfied to have fulfilled his life's mission at last. Lapointe, Ally and Teddy enter the enclave as Wallace bellows victoriously, much to their horror. One year later, Wallace, still sewn into the pelt, lives in a wildlife sanctuary. Ally and Teddy visit him and feed him a mackerel. Ally tells Wallace she still loves him before walking off, crying. In a flashback, Ally tells Wallace that her weeping grandfather told her that crying separates humans from animals. Tears run down Wallace's face as he bellows.
In a brief post credits scene, Lapointe is seen clutching his stomach in gastrointestinal distress, berating himself for having eaten a second burger earlier.
- Justin Long as "Mr. Tusk" / Wallace Bryton
- Michael Parks as Howard Howe
- Matthew Shively as young Howard Howe
- Genesis Rodriguez as Ally Leon
- Haley Joel Osment as Teddy Craft
- Johnny Depp (credited as Guy LaPointe) as Guy LaPointe
- Harley Morenstein as Border Agent
- Ralph Garman as Detective Garmin
- Jennifer Schwalbach Smith as Ms. McKenzie
- Harley Quinn Smith as Colleen McKenzie
- Lily-Rose Depp as Colleen Collette
- Ashley Greene as Convenience Store Customer
- Doug Banks as Kill Bill Kid
- Zak Knutson as Ernest Hemingway
The idea for the film came during the recording of SModcast 259 The Walrus and The Carpenter. In the episode, Smith with his longtime friend and producer Scott Mosier discussed an article featuring a Gumtree ad where a homeowner was offering a living situation free of charge, if the lodger agrees to dress as a walrus. The discussion went on from there, resulting in almost an hour of the episode being spent on reconstructing and telling a hypothetical story based on the ad. Smith then told his Twitter followers to tweet "#WalrusYes" if they wanted to see their hypothetical turned into a film, or "#WalrusNo" if they did not. A vast majority of Smith's following agreed that the film should be made. The post on Gumtree was in fact a prank post by noted Brighton poet and prankster Chris Parkinson, who upon hearing of the planned film said he was a big fan of Smith and that he would love to be involved. Smith eventually hired Parkinson as an associate producer in November.
Smith wrote the 80-page screenplay while waiting for Bob Weinstein's approval of his Clerks III submission package. It was originally titled The Walrus & the Carpenter, but he changed it into a single-word title, saying he "knew what a movie about a walrus had to be called." The film is set in Bifrost, Manitoba. The movie was originally going to be produced by Blumhouse, but due to Smith's expedited timeline for filming the two amicably parted ways. Tusk was eventually financed by Demarest Films. Smith had planned on premiering the film at Sundance 2014, but this was later changed to allow more time for the score to be completed.
Smith was excited about making Tusk, saying "I wanted to right what I felt was the only wrong of Red State by scripting something with no religious or sexual politics that could grow up to be a weird little movie and not an indie film call-to-arms or a frustrated self-distribution manifesto. I just wanted to showcase Michael Parks in a fucked up story, where he could recite some Lewis Carroll and 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' to some poor motherfucker sewn into a realistic walrus costume." Unlike Smith's previous film Red State, Tusk had a conventional theater release, with distribution handled by A24.
The project began pre-production in September 2013. Principal photography began on November 4, 2013, and wrapped on November 22, 2013. The starting date was delayed from September to October then to November due to the filming location moving from Canada to North Carolina. An additional two days of filming occurred in Los Angeles for scenes involving Depp's character Guy LaPointe. Smith originally considered Quentin Tarantino to play LaPointe after seeing his appearance in Django Unchained but Tarantino said he had no interest in acting at the moment.
Tusk had its world premiere on September 6, 2014, at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was screened as part of Midnight Madness. It was named the first runner-up to the Midnight Madness People's Choice Award. It was screened in Los Angeles at the Vista Theatre on September 16, 2014, before its wide theatrical release on September 19.
The film was released on September 19, 2014, and was declared a box office bomb, earning only $846,831 from over 602 screens during its opening weekend, debuting in fourteenth place at the box office. At the end of its run, on November 13, the film had grossed $1,826,705 in the domestic box office and $21,612 overseas for a worldwide total of $1,848,317.
Tusk was met with mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 45%, based on 131 reviews, with an average rating of 5.48/10. The site's summary reads, "Tusk is pleasantly ridiculous and charmingly self-deprecating, but that isn't enough to compensate for its thin, overstretched story." The Guardian rated the movie 4 out of 5 stars, complimenting Smith as returning to his “snarky best“. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 55 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
In his review for The Seattle Times, Erik Lundegaard gave the film zero out of four stars, stating, "Tusk, which is based on one of Smith's own podcasts, is the most disgusting and pointless movie I've seen. Emphasis on pointless. I spent half the movie sick to my stomach." William Bibbiani, writing for CraveOnline, criticized the film's failed humor and excessive runtime and said that the film "killed irony", awarding it two out of ten stars, while Glenn Dunks of Junkee.com gave the film an F and called it the worst movie of 2014.
Conversely, Chris Bumbray of JoBlo.com had a positive reaction, calling Tusk "a major return to form for Smith, and an exciting new chapter in a career that now feels totally reinvigorated." Roth Cornet from IGN gave the film eight out of ten and stated "Funny, strange, disquieting, and occasionally gory, Tusk is Kevin Smith at his best." Richard Roeper also gave Tusk a positive review, writing, "I'm recommending Kevin Smith's uniquely twisted 'Tusk', but there's a part of me that wishes I could un-see it. Over the last 15 years I've seen thousands of movies, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually closed my eyes during a screening because I needed a quick three-second break.". Clint O'Connor of The Plain Dealer noted that while Tusk skillfully combines various genres, the story would be better presented as a short film. According to O'Connor, the character of Guy Lapointe was named after the famous hockey player.
Smith revealed before the release of Tusk that he had written a spin-off film called Yoga Hosers, which would feature the cast from Tusk. On August 19, 2014, Borys Kit from The Hollywood Reporter revealed further details about the film. Yoga Hosers will be an action-adventure film and the second in the True North trilogy. As well as the rest of the entire cast of Tusk (except Michael Parks, who died in May 2017), the film will star Johnny Depp's daughter, Lily-Rose, and Smith's daughter, Harley Quinn. Tony Hale, Natasha Lyonne, Austin Butler, Adam Brody, Tyler Posey, and Jason Mewes have also been cast.
The third installment of Smith's True North trilogy is to be titled Moose Jaws, which Smith says is basically "Jaws with a moose". Starstream Entertainment will finance and produce the film, while XYZ Films will sell the foreign rights at the Toronto Film Festival.
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- Lundegaard, Erik (September 18, 2014). "'Tusk': Kevin Smith's pointless house of walrus horrors". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
- Bibbiani, William (September 19, 2014). "'Tusk' Review: Tsk-Tsk". CraveOnline. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
- Dunks, Glenn (October 13, 2014). "Kevin Smith's 'Tusk' Just Might Be The Worst Movie Of The Year". Junkee.com. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Bumbray, Chris (September 6, 2014). "Review: Tusk (TIFF 2014) + Video Review! – Movie News". JoBlo.com. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
- Cornet, Roth (September 18, 2014). "Tusk review – I am he as you are he as you are me". IGN. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
- Roeper, Richard. "'Tusk': Kevin Smith's uniquely twisted curiosity cuts deep". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 12, 2014.
- O'Connor, Clint (September 17, 2014). "'Tusk': Kevin Smith's horror movie goes 'Full Walrus' (review)". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved January 29, 2016.
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- Yoga Hosers
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