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Film / Tusk (2014)
aka: Tusk

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"Let me tell you a story..."

Tusk is a 2014 Horror Comedy film written and directed by Kevin Smith, starring Justin Long, Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, and Johnny Depp.

Wallace Bryton (Long) and Teddy Craft (Osment) are best friends and co-hosts of the popular podcast The Not-See Party. While the podcast largely revolves around them finding and mocking humiliating viral videos, another key aspect of it is Wallace traveling abroad to interview strange people he meets in order to report back on his findings to Teddy, who is afraid of flying and as such does not see any of Wallace's adventures.

When Wallace's latest trip sends him to Canada, he ends up meeting an eccentric retired seafarer (Parks) with a remote house in the backwoods who promises interesting stories. However, it isn't long before Wallace comes to realize that he's in over his head, and there's far, far more to the old man than meets the eye. As he fails to return from his trip, the film also follows Teddy and Wallace's girlfriend Ally (Rodriguez) as they team up to investigate what happened to him.

The film was based on a fake story Kevin Smith read on his SModcast podcast, which he and Scott Mosier then turned into a horror movie pitch just for the fun of it. Smith then asked his fans on Twitter whether they thought the film should be made, to which a vast majority approved of the idea.

Tusk is also the first in Smith's True North trilogy, three films with self-contained stories all set in the country of Canada in the same shared movie universe; it is followed by Yoga Hosers and the planned Moose Jawsnote .

This movie provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: More of a directorial example, 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.
  • 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.
  • Agony of the Feet: Wallace gains the upper hand on Howe in their final fight by first using a tusk to gore him through his left foot.
  • 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: Several examples:
    • 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 (or, at the very least, take an interest in accurately depicting) 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.
    • For that matter, the notion that a half-starved castaway could kill a wild walrus with little more than rocks and bare hands is ridiculous. Even a newborn walrus is nearly as big as a human, and grown males like "Mr. Tusk" weigh a ton or more, with four inches of hide and six inches of blubber as protection. Even polar bears are wary of hunting walruses unless they can stampede them into trampling each other, and adults have been known to fend off orcas in the water.
    • There is no way Wallace would survive the amateur surgery Howe subjected him to in order to turn him into a walrus, let alone being in the suit itself. He had his left leg amputated and his arms sewed by the time he is put on the suit, not to mention he is without clothes or any medicine for infections. In real life, he would've dropped dead before even waking up. And on top of everything else, Howe forces Wallace to swim in dirty water when he is in the suit which is made of human rotten skin. In short time, there is no way any person would survive the whole thing.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Subverted with Wallace. He 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. To put it in perspective, he's the type of person who would make fun of a guy who accidentally amputated his own leg online and then get mad 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.note  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 straight 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 definitely fits this trope to a "T", what with the combination of eccentric behavior and horrific taste in bodily modifications.
  • 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 semimitigated by the ending showing that Wallace can still cry, which is said to be reflective of his humanity which 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.
  • Big "NO!": Ally lets one out after seeing Wallace in his walrus form.
  • Blatant Lies: When Wallace awakens from being drugged in Howe's home to find one of his legs amputated, Howe tells him a thoroughly convoluted story with a random claim to rebut every logical question Wallace has about why he can't contact his family or, you know, isn't in the hospital.
  • 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 arms 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.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: When Wallace first shows Howe a taste of his podcast, he asks Wallace how he can say such lewd things with no consequences. He responds:
    "The audience likes it real and raunchy, so I try to keep it real and raunchy. And real raunchy."
  • 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.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Twice.
    • In Howe's backstory, he was the sole survivor of a shipwreck because a walrus saved him from drowning. Unfortunately, Howe had to eat his rescuer to stay alive, not knowing that a rescue boat was only minutes away. Howe was overwhelmed with guilt over the needless killing of his companion and he started abducting people and surgically turning them into walruses so he can recreate his friendship and eventually punish himself for killing the animal that saved his life.
    • After finally learning where Wallace is and that he's in danger, Teddy and Ally charge in to confront Howe and save Wallace. Only to realize that Wallace has already killed Howe and has been tortured to the point of insanity as he now believes he's a walrus.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The two girl clerks. Wallace has a brief interaction with them before he travels to Howe's house, and the fact that he asked for a pad and pen from them to write the address of the house is a crucial detail that helps Guy, Teddy and Ally track down the house towards the end of the film.
  • 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.
  • Delusions of Doghood: Played for Horror when Wallace ends up being so mentally damaged that he thinks he really is a walrus, and with no apparent cure for this, he becomes forced to spend the rest of his life living as one. It's not explained how he can survive on a diet of raw fish when he's biologically still a human, though.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Howard Howe is polite and civil, but also a damn insane bastard who kidnaps and turns people into walruses against their will.
  • Foreshadowing: At first part of the movie during the podcast scene, Wallace says that he doesn't need both legs (referring to the kid who amputates his legs). Guess what happened to Wallace shortly after he met Howard?
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • Wallace finds out his phone still works when Ally calls him. Instead of calling the police, he calls her and Teddy to explain his situation. Had he called the police, he might've made it out with his humanity in tact.
    • 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 amputated, but anything else that Howe did to him could be removed with practical medical attention. Of additional note is that by leaving him to live as a walrus, they are doing exactly what Howe wanted: to turn Wallace into a real walrus forever.
  • Inhumanable Alien Rights: By the end of the movie, Wallace is biologically still a human, but (sort of) looks like a walrus and believes himself to be one. Because of that, his friend and girlfriend get away with just throwing him into an animal sanctuary and letting him live the remainder of his life there as a wild, mindless animal. The humane thing to do would be to ask a competent surgeon to free him of the walrus suit and then get him into psychiatric therapy for the severe mental damage he suffered, but Wallace's human rights are completely glossed over because he doesn't seem human anymore.
  • Instant Sedation: Averted. Wallace takes forever to even begin to go down after Howe drugs his tea.
  • 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.
  • 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. "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.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Ally is played by the attractive Génesis Rodríguez and spends most of her earlier scenes in the film in her underwear (even going down on Wallace in one scene) before she gets involved in the search for Wallace.
  • 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 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 lured or even turned into a walrus. The suits he makes are crafted from pieces of his victims, and Wallace finds the rotting carcass of Howe's last "walrus" during his swim test.
  • 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.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Although Wallace highly praises the tea Howe makes for him, he slowly gets drowsier over the course of their conversation and eventually passes out cold on the floor, as the tea has been druggednote .
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Tusk