Monthly Archives: September 2014

Movie Review: Tusk


The descriptive subtitle for Kevin Smith’s Tusk (opening tomorrow, Sept. 19th) is “a truly transformative tale”, but if I were the one tasked with cooking up an alliterative teaser, I think I would’ve gone with “A WTF Wonderland”.

Seriously…where to start. (I’m not alone in struggling to find the words to share what I experienced; one of my fellow media folks–a person dedicated to describing movies in words, mind you–looked at me, after the lights came up and said, “I don’t even know how to explain what I just saw.”)

I’m not a Kevin Smith fan. By saying that, I’m not telling you I don’t like him–just that I’ve never seen any of his movies. (I watched Good Will Hunting, which I think he had a hand in producing, but that’s it.) Smith aficianados have told me that this is a departure from his usual M.O., so take that into consideration if you’re yearning to see it out of loyalty to him, but all preconceptions aside…consider seeing it if any of the following describe you…

You like the unexpected.

I don’t care what you think you know, you’re not completely expecting this, I don’t think.

You don’t mind a little grossness.

My definition of “a little” might be tainted. I mean, I always maintain that I can’t stand movies that are gratuitously violent, or gross, but I guess your mileage varies. There’s not lewdness to the point of the Hangover movies (I’m embarrassed that I can even offer a knowledgeable comparison), but it can be a little crass. It’s not a Saw movie, but there is some dismemberment going on. There’s also reference to abuse, but this is handled in such a way that you get the background it’s supposed to supply, without the horrid experience of witnessing it. In short, it’s a horror movie that involves some wickedly terrible things, but Smith has done a pretty good job of exercising that one virtue so conspicuously absent in many modern movies; restraint.

That isn’t to say there’s not over the top moments–it’s about a man being turned into a walrus–but…it’s awfully restrained, for a movie about a man being turned into a walrus.

You like deep themes, but don’t want to be hit over the head.

It will make you think. It will give you things to discuss on the car ride home, or over dinner as you try and sort out what just happened. But it’s also not a Bergman film. I mean, Johnny Depp is in it. (He’s not credited, but the cat was already out of the bag and you’ll know him even with the makeup. Fun fact; his teenage daughter, Lily-Rose, is also in it, as one of the Canadian store clerks.) There were legitimate laugh-out-loud moments–it’s genuinely funny in places, also a rare treat–and there was Hemingway, and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Smith does point you in the direction you need to go, with a few mentions of animalistic behavior, and wonderings about humanity, but for the most part it’s up to you to fill in the blanks. And enjoy the inevitable appearance of That Fleetwood Mac Song.

Do I recommend it? Sure. I think it’s got some good things to say about how we let ourselves devolve, what we need in relationships, and it’s a good illustration for the maxim that I constantly repeat to my children; “Hurt people hurt people.” (It’s also rare in that it may scare you a little if you’re a man. Not a lot of movies focus on trying to terrify guys–it’s easy to make a movie about someone wanting to do horrible things to women–but Tusk succeeds as a psychological thriller to me in part because it strikes at men; the person instigating the fear even mentions the distinction between simply being afraid, and terror. The protagonist isn’t expecting what happens to him, and you won’t either, even if you think you know what it’s about.)

It’s immensely quotable (“I think we’re all tea people”), and will certainly stick with you, like a serving of poutine. (Yes, the movie has a very memorable reference to Canada’s beloved dish.)

There you go…that’s my best attempt at describing the odd, thought-provoking duck of a movie that is Tusk.