UncategorizedTusk: An Experiment in Whimsy

September 23, 2014139 min

For twenty years I have been watching Kevin Smith’s films, loving them, quoting them, even wearing t-shirts that quote them. I have also been a fan of Smith’s building of a podcast empire. I have, and with only very little shame admit to having listened to over 800 hours of this man and his friends doing their Seinfeld talks about nothing. Just having conversations and trying to make each other laugh.

It was during one of these talks that Smith and his long-time producer and partner on their podcast “SModcast” Scott Mosier were fascinated by an on-line classified ad about a guy offering free room and board as long as you dressed-up for him like a walrus. It turned out to be a hoax, but because it captured Smith’s imagination, to the point where he thought it would make a really messed-up horror movie that no one else would ever make, he asked his fans to tweet “#WalrusYes” on Twitter if he should try to make a film out of this absurd albeit horrifying story of a guy turning another guy into a walrus.

The film “Tusk” was born. Since it was already reviewed on this site I don’t want to add much except to say that the Michael Parks performance is amazing. The other actors totally commit as well, even the role of Guy Lapointe which most of the time feels out of place, was still kinda funny in its own way. The biggest problem with the film is that of tone. It’s all over the place, turning on a dime from silly to horrifying, to straight up uncomfortable. This I think worked extremely well in his previous film “Red State”, but here I believed it needed more focus in order to succeed as a cohesive film. “Tusk” is set in a universe that is much a “SModcast” film as “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” was a “Jersey” film. I counted over 20 references to the SModcast network as I sure there were more, but that’s what you get in a Kevin Smith film, it is littered with his personality. In this case it’s not his previous films you needed to see before to chuckle at in-jokes, but hours of podcasts. Maybe that was the goal, to be all-over-the-place weird. I just felt that it prevented it from being truly original and not just an experimental film with a great film hidden inside too deep to see.

Smith himself even admits that “This film shouldn’t exist.” I am however perplexed at myself because as the film ended I, as movie reviewer and fan was a little disappointed, because while there were some memorable moments, and stuff I’ve never seen before on film, it didn’t hold together for me as a whole. I pondered this and was getting ready to leave as the credits rolled, then something even stranger happened. Smith tacked on to the ending of the credits a portion of the episode of the SModcast where the idea for making “Tusk” into a movie appeared. As I listened for the first time since it aired, as Smith and Mosier laughed as they described what the ending of the movie would be. And it was the ending I just watched. Suddenly and in all honesty, I got a little misty, not just from listening to these guys laugh tends to make me laugh, but because, this guy, this filmmaker/podcaster followed through on something.

Where most people leave it on the table, (and more than a few critics believe he should have) he decided to as he says “chase whimsy” and say “why not?” He went for it to its final conclusion. From reading an ad, getting an idea, acting on that idea, crafting a story, all the way to actually making a film with a talented cast to do this crazy walrus picture. It was inspiring more than anything else. I didn’t like this movie a whole lot, and I probably will never watch it again, but I truly love that it’s out there, if nothing else as a true testament that anything is possible, not because you are a filmmaker with 20 years of experience, but because if you have a notion to do something creative that you enjoy, whether painting, making a film, writing a short story, or starting a podcast, then why the hell not?

–Robert L. Castillo

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