“Tusk” seeks to answer the question of what sets humans apart from animals in an unusual way. Its talented cast brings a refreshing take on the horror genre, effortlessly juggling knee-slapping comedy and dramatic twists.
Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) is a podcaster constantly in search of strange people with exotic stories. He shares their stories with a mix of crude humor on his show “The Not-See Party.” As he makes his way to Canada to interview a teenager whose video has gone viral, he happens upon a ghastly manor called Pippy Hill, where an aged adventurer named Howard Howe (Michael Parks) lives.
Howe intrigues Bryton with his stories of seafaring ventures and survival on deserted islands, but the clueless podcaster doesn’t realize that Howe has bigger plans brewing for him.
Meanwhile, Bryton’s friend Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment) and girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) receive a chilling voicemail confirming that Wallace is in grave trouble. They seek the help of the slurring, retired homicide detective Guy LaPointe (Johnny Depp) to rescue their friend and uncover Howe’s appalling scheme.
Directed by Kevin Smith, “Tusk” works well as a horror-comedy. The balance of humor and fear in the film is captured without a struggle, keeping viewers on the edge of their seat. The drama in the film is amplified by the narration of famous lines by renowned writers, including Ernest Hemingway and Lewis Carroll at defining moments in the plot.
The sudden appearance of horrific monstrosity after monstrosity, all of which are Howe’s creations, doesn’t fail to catch the audience off guard. The horror isn’t as frightening as it is sickening, so a strong stomach is vital to surviving this film.
All the characters are a little over-the-top and the eerie mansion in the backwoods of Canada serves as the perfect setting for a story about an old psychopath and a candid podcaster. Parks excels in his role as Howe, embedding fear in the audience with his convincing portrayal of a raging lunatic. Long steals the show as Bryton, with his witty dialogue delivery and truthful depictions of dread, despair, acceptance and vengeance. However, the most noteworthy performance would be Depp’s role as LaPointe. His portrayal of a drunken ex-cop with a genuine heart of gold and clever ideas will sweep the audience members off their feet.
Although excessive gore and strange, unfathomable plot twists are central to “Tusk,” so is the underlying meaning it tries to convey. Humans are flawed creatures, but the presence of a soul separates them from the brutish, untamed nature of animals. A human heart, always rife with emotion, will prevail even when the outward appearance has been defaced beyond recognition. “Tusk” is worth the time if only for its ingenious plot and compelling undertones.