The idea for Tusk was spawned from a spoof Gumtree ad, which was discussed on Smith’s weekly podcast SModcast. The ad requested a flatmate, who would live rent-free on the condition they agreed to dress as a walrus every day. Writer/director Smith mirrors this idea in Tusk. Justin Long plays Wallace Bryton, a long-running podcaster who has found fame with his partner-in-crime Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment). Wallace and Teddy are an unlikely duo who work seamlessly together: lifelong goofball friends. Wallace travels to Canada in search of their next story, which falls though. However, the trail reignites when he discovers an ad on a bathroom wall offering free board and a lifetime of interesting stories in exchange for a carer.
Wallace arrives at the rural mansion of wheelchair-bound Howard Howe – an old seafarer who recounts tails of maritime adventures, the most bizarre of which is when he was rescued from the sea by a walrus, which he lovingly named Mr Tusk. Michael Parks slickly plays his role of psychopath with believable tenderness and poignancy. Wallace awakes from a drug-induced slumber with horror – one of his legs has been amputated, and it’s clear all is not as it seems. Wallace is slowly being turned into Mr Tusk. Hot on his heels is Teddy with detective Guy Lapointe. A barely recognisable Johnny Depp as Lapointe drags the film away from horror and back to comedy with his Wes Anderson-style depiction of an aloof, cross-eyed alcoholic detective.
Tusk is a film to be taken at face value – it’s a smooth, goofy, left-field foray. It’s black comedy laced with lo-fi elements of horror porn, with a classic indie hue. Comparisons with The Human Centipede and The Skin I Live In are obvious, though Smith ensures the film doesn’t become too dark with a consistent level of intelligently funny scripting. It’s not for everyone – the final scenes are mouth-gapingly twisted, but executed with panache; the veneer is always terrifically oddball.
It’s a fine return to form for Smith, who has without a doubt floundered in his career at times. Helped along by a robust cast, great dialogue, and a truly original and charming storyline, he knocks this one out of the park.
Tusk is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 30th December 2014, and available for digital download here.
Watch the trailer for Tusk here: