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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 is polite and civil, but also a damn insane bastard who kidnaps and turns people into walruses against their will.
  • 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 shinbones, which are somehow made from solid bone despite real shinbones 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.
    • No amount of surgical modification is going to allow a human to survive without fresh water, as we can't extract adequate water from fish or shellfish to replace liquids lost to urination. Yet, neither Howe's walrus enclosure nor the animal park's have any evident fresh water on offer for Wallace.
    • The filmmakers don't seem to quite grasp how massive a real-life walrus actually is. A real walrus the size of fully-converted Wallace would be too young to have more than tusk-buds.
  • Asshole Victim: Subverted. 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.
    • Played straigth with Howe, who's been kidnapping, deforming and killing countless people in his quest for "the perfect walrus" and drives Wallace to the point of insanity. Though his death is something he wanted, he still got a gruesome death as punishment for his crimes.
  • 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 that was what he wanted all along. His goal was to find someone who so fully embraces and embodies the walrus that he overcomes Howe in a fight to the death, all because Howe wants to be punished for unnecessarily killing the real Mr. Tusk for survival immediately before being rescued even though the walrus saved his life after he was shipwrecked. 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.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Wallace is left in the walrus suit (which is made of human flesh), and has both his body and mind destroyed.
  • 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.
  • Idiot Ball: Ally and Teddy decide to leave Wallace in a sanctuary once they find him and he is practically a walrus for sure. They apparently didn't try or think in getting him to a hospital so he could get medical attention and be separated from that suit (since Howe used a very poor surgery to turn him into a walrus), sure he might not be able to talk as his tongue was removed and his legs are still amputed, but anything else that Howe did to him could be removed with practical medical attention. Not to say, by leaving him to leave as walrus they are doing exactly what Howe wanted: to turn Wallace in "Mr Tusk" and be a real 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 and Teddy regularly visit him at the sanctuary he lives in, but the song's later verses talk about the decline and death of relationships.
  • Karmic Death: Howe ends up being brutally gored to death with Wallace's grafted tusks, although that'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 joke ad that inspired the film offered accommodation, and "Brighton" is also the last name of the man who wrote the joke ad in the first place.
    • 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 is named Gregory Gumtree, combining the name of the walrus from the fake ad with the website on which the fake ad was originally 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 where 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.
  • Silent Snarker: Wallace becomes one after his tongue is removed and he's put into the walrus suit, visibly rolling his eyes at some of Howe's pontifications.
  • 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 as ridiculous as possible.
  • The Speechless: Wallace becomes this after Howe puts him in the suit, and he is reduced to only screaming. This is due to his tongue having been removed, according to LaPointe.
  • 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 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 a misconception 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 easier to pity.


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