NEW YORK (CNS) — There is no compelling reason even for devoted fans of writer-director Kevin Smith to take in his misguided gross-out horror-comedy “Tusk” (A24). Worse, if you see it, there’s no way to un-see it.
Smith combines grotesque elements inspired by “The Human Centipede” and “The Fly” for shock value, but for comedy relies on ambling scenes, the point of which is that Canadians, particularly French-Canadians, all talk funny and regard Americans as smug and stupid.
The story takes wisecracking and insensitive podcast host Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) from Los Angeles to somewhere north of Manitoba, where he wants to interview a chubby teen who became a viral video sensation for twirling a “Star Wars” light saber. It turns out the boy has just committed suicide, so in a twist of fate, Wallace finds, in a restroom, a letter from a former seafarer who wishes to share his colorful stories.
Howard Howe (Michael Parks) is no eccentric adventurer, but rather a serial killer. He drugs his victims and uses crude amputations and maiming to transform them into walruses, using stitched-together “bodies” of human flesh, so he can live out his sick fantasies by rendering others helpless. A story that begins as a droll spoof of the horror genre transforms into torture porn and creaks along from there.
Wallace’s co-host, Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment), and girlfriend Ally Leon (Genesis Rodriguez) attempt to find Wallace before events reach the point of no return, aided by detective Guy LaPointe (an uncredited Johnny Depp).
“Tusk” brandishes its inhumane repulsiveness as a point of pride. But there’s no point to it, other than presumably deranged glee that such a mess can be made at all.
The film contains explicit gory physical violence and maiming, a scene of implied sexual activity, and pervasive crude, crass and profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.