Despite his hit-or-miss film output, Kevin Smith may be one of the world’s greatest living storytellers. It doesn’t matter if you understand all of his references, agree with his ideas, or like movies (particularly his movies) in the same way; listening to him spin a tale on his long-running SModcast or his marathon Q&A sessions is a rare experience.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that Kevin Smith’s best movie in years comes from an episode of his podcast. While riffing on a personal ad found on Gumtree, which sought the company of a houseguest who would receive free room and board as long as they wore a walrus suit, Smith and co-host Scott Mosier created the basic outline of Tusk just to make each other laugh, cracking up about forced metaphors involving man’s inner walrus. This led to a campaign where listeners would tweet whether the movie would get made with #WalrusYes or #WalrusNo.
Some are calling the result a “stoner Human Centipede,” and while it does have a body horror plot of horrifically turning a man into a monstrosity, it’s more than a jokey parody or fodder for gorehounds. Torture porn generally focuses so tightly on the intricate, brutal details of the victims’ suffering and the frightening glee of the torturer that it never sees the big picture. Tusk is certainly violent, but interestingly, we never actually see the severing of body parts or sewing of limbs because the gore isn’t the point.
The point is to experience the rare thrill of a movie that manages to go to the wildest extremes of its premise while never taking itself seriously.
Explaining the exact plot of Tusk is a bit pointless as it’s more fun when you have no idea what might happen next (and you really don’t)—not to mention the whole thing is already explained in podcast form. But where it fits in with Smith’s history is vital. It’s almost as though there are two Kevin Smiths: Smith the storyteller and public speaker loves conversation, debate, new ideas, and digging as far as he can into his own brain to see what inspired silliness or surprising insight comes out. Smith the filmmaker has a tendency to skim the surface of an idea, then wrap it up before things get too heavy, as though he’s aware of his own intelligence but second guesses his ability to communicate with the audience. The latter Smith holds back while the former wouldn’t dream of it.
Tusk does not give a fuck if you like it and tosses any message or moral out with the bong water. “It’s gleefully unhinged, and even if you go looking for a message, the only one waiting for you is hilariously preposterous.” Though there are more than a few moments when Smith could have used someone over his shoulder to let him know when the dialogue of a scene runs about five minutes too long, it is incredibly refreshing to see a Kevin Smith movie that it is as much fun as a Kevin Smith podcast.