No matter how dark and stomach-churning the conceit is behind writer/director Kevin Smith's new horror satire "Tusk," you have to admit that it's a bold cinematic statement from a director who hasn't made a bold statement in far too long.
Remember the movie "The Human Centipede?" Yeah, the one where a crazy guy abducts three nitwits and stitches them together? I'll spare you the gory details. But that sort of animalistic flesh manipulation is at the heart of "Tusk" -- but, I assure you, it's nowhere near as depraved as "Centipede." Oh, it's depraved, just not as much.
Wallace (Justin Long) and Teddy (long-lost "The Sixth Sense" star Haley Joel Osment) are best buds and partners on a raunchy, mean-spirited podcast -- The Not-See Podcast (say it out loud to get the full, off-color effect). They spend their time mocking and laughing at Internet videos, with Wallace going out to visit and interview some of these punchlines.
The story takes off when Wallace flies to Canada to interview one of these poor souls. The trip is a bust, but Wallace, looking for a story to make his trip worthwhile, happens upon a posting in a bar bathroom promising tales of a lifetime of adventures. Soon, he's off to the remote home of Howard Howe (Michael Parks, turning in a stellar performance), who delights Wallace with unbelievable stories about a life at sea, including getting shipwrecked and befriending a walrus he named Mr. Tusk.
Let's just throw out a spoiler warning now, though I think it's pretty obvious what's happening. Howe is a loquacious lunatic who drugs Wallace and begins to cut him apart, contorting his body to turn him into a walrus. Yeah, that's a thing now.
Meanwhile, Wallace's girlfriend, Ally (Genesis Rodriguez), and Teddy head up to Canada looking for Wallace, aided by an odd ex-detective, Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp, hiding under a fake nose and credited as Lapointe). Depp is fun in one of his trademark oddball rolls.
"Tusk" can be a gross film, but it's also funny. Smith's script is rife with silly moments, clever lines and a healthy dose of hockey humor. It's also a showcase for the unheralded talent of Parks, a soap opera and theater veteran who brings both menace and absurdity to his role. If you can get past the grotesque aspect, "Tusk" is worth your attention.
Directed by Kevin Smith
Starring Justin Long, Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Guy Lapointe | Rated R