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Film / Tusk

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"I don't wanna die in Canada!"

"Let me tell you a story..."

Tusk is a 2014 Body Horror-comedy film directed and written by Kevin Smith. It concerns Wallace Bryton (Justin Long), a podcaster who goes to Canada in order to interview a seafarer (Michael Parks) who then kidnaps him and plans to sew him into a walrus suit. Meanwhile, Bryton's best friend Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment) and girlfriend Ally Leon (Genesis Rodriguez) team up with a Québécois ex-cop named Guy Lapointe (played by Johnny Depp of all people!) to investigate his disappearance.

It was inspired by a fake story Kevin Smith read on his podcast, which he and Scott Mosier then turned into a horror movie pitch just for the fun of it, which ended up getting turned into an actual movie. It is also the first in Kevin Smith's True North Trilogy (Tusk, Yoga Hosers, and Moose Jawsnote ), three films in their own self-contained universe all set in Canada.


This movie provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: More of a Director Allusion, but Wallace mocks the clerks at the convenience store by asking them how Degrassi is. Kevin Smith, along with Jason Mewes, had an arc on Degrassi: The Next Generation where they did a new Jay and Silent Bob movie.
  • Affably Evil: Howard Howe.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of "rubber suit monster" b-movies particularly David Cronenberg films. Kevin Smith also took inspiration from horror movie tropes and David Lynch films.
  • Alice Allusion: The poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter" provided part of the inspiration.
  • And I Must Scream: By the end of the movie, Wallace is stuck in the walrus suit and is completely broken on a psychological level. To make matters worse, his tears in the final shot imply that he is still aware of his humanity on some level.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Howe creates tusks from Wallace's femurs, which are somehow made from solid bone despite the human femur being hollow.
    • It's small potatoes compared to everything else that's biologically wrong with Howe's plan, but both Howe and Ally feed Wallace a mackerel. Walruses will eat fish, but generally prefer mollusks such as clams. That said, Wallace isn't an actual walrus, but a human who has undergone painful surgical modification to look like one.
  • Asshole Victim: Wallace can easily come across as this — he's cocky, condescending, offensive for the sake of being offensive and is apparently cheating on his girlfriend before he makes his trip to Canada. Oh and by offensive, one means that he makes fun of mentally handicapped people online to make himself look smart by comparison, even going as far as making a laughingstock out of an idiot who accidentally amputated his own leg. And he is angry at him when he kills himself because he lost the chance to make further fun of him by interviewing him which means that he dragged himself to Canada for nothing. However, seeing just how much happens to him over the film and how destroyed it leaves him, it is still hard to not feel some kind of pity for how things end for him. So yeah… a scumbag but not for nothing.
  • Ax-Crazy: Howard Howe tries to turn a man into a walrus. He definitely fits this trope to a "T".
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Howe succeeds in creating the perfect human walrus. He is killed by Wallace, but he clearly acknowledged the possibility. This is semi mitigated by the ending showing that Wallace can still cry, which is said to be reflective of his humanity that separates him from an animal like Howe had wanted him to be.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: As noted above, the newspaper ad which inspired the story turned out to be a hoax.
  • Body Horror: A man attempts to turn another man into a walrus. He does this by amputating the victim's lower legs, carving the amputated bones into makeshift tusks, sewing the victim's fingers together, sewing the victim into a walrus costume stitched together from flayed human skins, forcibly implanting the carved tusks into the victim's face, and brutally traumatizing them until they are conditioned to think of themselves as a walrus.
  • Call-Back: Several story elements and jokes, like the name of Pondering Rock and Wallace's ringtone, are references to past episodes of Kevin Smith's podcast "Smodcast".
  • Canada, Eh?: Where most of the film takes place.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The two girl clerks.
  • Clingy Costume: Wallace is sewn into a walrus suit made of human skin.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: A handbill by the villain promises "interesting stories", which is a trick to decoy victims and turn them into walruses.
  • Downer Ending: While Howe is killed, he successfully left Wallace mentally broken beyond repair, leaving him to believe himself to be a walrus, and having to live out the rest of his days at a sanctuary, with at least some awareness of his humanity.
  • Driven to Suicide: The Kill Bill Kid.
  • Fingore: Wallace has his fingers sewn together to create flippers.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Wallace's, to extremes.
  • Freudian Excuse: Howe gives one in an Info Dump, where he reveals that his parents were murdered, and he was sent to an orphanage which was turned into an insane asylum, where he was tortured and raped by priests, orderlies, and politicians.
  • Gigantic Moon: The movie poster has a huge moon in the background.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Howe amputates both of Wallace's legs.
  • Instant Sedation: Averted. Wallace takes forever to even begin to go down after Howe drugs his tea.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Howe certainly thinks so, to the point of wondering why anyone would want to be human instead of a walrus.
  • Isn't It Ironic?: The song played at the credits of the film is "The Water is Wide," a traditional love song about the singer's strong relationship that at first conveniently suits the ending when Wallace's girlfriend Ally regularly visits him at the sanctuary he lives in, but the song's later verses talks about the decline and death of relationships.
  • Karmic Death: Howe ends up being brutally gored to death with Wallace's grafted tusks. Though it's likely that it's what he truly wanted all along, as for him it allows "Mr. Tusk" to take "revenge" on the human who betrayed, killed and ate him.
  • Large Ham: Howard Howe, full-stop.
  • Malevolent Mutilation: Up to 11.
  • Meaningful Name: The protagonist's surname is Bryton, pronounced exactly the same as the English city of Brighton where the fake ad that inspired the film offered accommodation. Investigator Guy Lapointe is named after a real life police officer who was involved in a different Canada-based story involving maple syrup theft that was also discussed on SModcast. The missing hockey player Lapointe investigates in a flashback has the surname 'Gumtree'; the website on which the fake ad was origially posted.
  • Punny Name:
    • Wallace, the man who gets turned into a walrus.
    • The fast-food joint where we first meet LaPointe is called Gimli Sliders. Nope, it's not a J. R. R. Tolkien reference, but rather another Canadian one.
  • Sanity Slippage: Not only is Wallace turned into a walrus, but his mind is also psychologically damaged to the point he pretty much is a walrus.
  • Same Face, Different Name: Yes, just in case anyone didn't get it the first time round, that is Johnny Depp as "Guy Lapointe."
  • Serial Killer: Wallace isn't the first person Howe has done this to. The suits he makes are crafted from pieces of his victims, and Wallace finds the rotting carcass of Howe's last "walrus".
  • Shout-Out: Wallace sings the theme song to the McKenzie Brothers skit when he calls Teddy.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Bounces all over the place; even the director is unsure of where it falls on this. Partially because he stuck to the original story they made up even though a lot of it was joking and being intentionally ridiculous as possible.
  • Spiders Are Scary: Howe tells Wallace that the reason his leg was amputated was because it had been bitten by a highly-venomous spider.
    • Interestingly enough, the type of spider mentioned by Howe is actually disputed by arachnologists (read the link for more details) in regards to the levels of aggression and toxicity of its venom. In the States, it's considered quite dangerous while Canadian (in Canada, its bite is not seen as lethal or causing necrosis) and European (the spider comes from Europe, where it's co-habitated with humans for centuries without major problems) scientists consider it to not be a threat to humans. Whether the fact that a Canadian character used this excuse is simply Fridge Logic caused by the creators being American, or a clever way to show that Howe simply fed Wallace a bullshit story he knew his victim would believe at first, is up to personal opinion.
  • Surreal Horror: Turning a man into a walrus.
  • Those Two Girls: The Colleens, who later get their own movie.
  • Unfortunate Names: Wally's podcast is named "The Not-See Party." Clever pun, until his girlfriend tries to call the police for help and they immediately hang up when she uses the name.
  • Wily Walrus: Invoked. A madman is trying to create "the perfect human walrus" through a painful process that involves amputating his victim's legs and stitching their fingers together before stitching the body into a walrus suit made from human skin. Wallace, who ends up the victim of this horrible procedure, was a Jerkass before. After he ends up in the walrus suit, he manages to kill the madman by stabbing him with his tusks.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: It's clear that Howe is obviously murderous and batshit insane, but given his Freudian Excuse, he's easy to pity.


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