”Tusk” is a movie that goes off the beaten paths. It’s a potential cult movie which will be adored by some and despised by others for decades to come. It’s almost impossible to have a neutral or no opinion on this controversial movie. It’s not a question about getting it or not, it’s simply a matter of personal tastes.
The story is quickly told. An American pod-cast host ends up in the isolated mansion of an old seaman in Manitoba who wants to share some stories about his life. One gets to know that the old fool is in fact a dangerous serial killer who despises mankind because he got intimidated, raped and tortured by the society after the brutal killing of his parents. The only thing that has ever shown respect to him was a walrus that saved him from a shipwreck in Northern Russia. In order to survive on an isolated island, the serial killer had to make the decision to kill his saviour just hours before he got saved. He regrets that decision and in order to relive this pivotal moment in his life again and to take revenge on a society that made him suffer all life long, the serial killer kidnaps, mutilates and tortures young men to transform them into walruses. While the imprisoned pod-cast host gets now mentally and physically unstable and begins more and more to act like a wild animal, his grounded partner and his cheating girlfriend realize that he is in danger. They arrive in Canada and team up with a drug addict and ex-police officer from Quebec to save their friend or what remains of his human body and soul.
The film is a grotesque that mixes black comedy, drama, horror and thriller elements all at once. The movie has many changes of tone. When you see the two main characters fooling around, the tone is humorous. A few moments later, you assist a burial after a suicide and the tone gets accusatory. The movie then cuts to an actress who is crying her heart out and complains about her cheating boyfriend as the tone gets depressing. Seconds later, she herself cheats on her boyfriend and the whole scene suddenly feels ironical. This film is filled with these fascinating changes of tones. You constantly change your mind about the different characters as well. The main character looks like a superficial idiot during his show in the beginning of the movie. His partner looks like the friendlier and smarter guy. His girlfriend looks like a confident, faithful and serious person. The villain of the story looks like an innocent old fool. Thirty minutes later, the main character has some intellectual dialogues and proves that he is not as dumb as one might have thought. His partner betrays his best friend by sleeping with his girlfriend who suddenly looks fragile, superficial and unfaithful. The old fool has become an intimidating criminal with a horrible past.
It’s not just the tone that changes, the overall mood also does. What starts as a juvenile comedy movie in the key of ”The Interview” turns into a bleak body horror film like ”The Human Centipede”, gets a touch of a crime comedy movie like ”Good Cop, Bad Cop” and becomes an existential and nearly philosophical drama like the ending of ”I Saw The Devil” for example.
Those who say that this movie is bland, superficial and thoughtless are wrong. This movie has more memorable scenes than ten others together. It’s a matter of taste whether you like these scenes or not. The scenes of the burial and the close-up on the crying girlfriend shook me up. The ring-tone of the main character’s cell phone and the weird dialogue between the French Canadian police officer and the serial killer in front of a shack made me laugh out loud. The torture scenes in the old mansion and the closing part in a zoo made me feel disgust, horror and sadness at once.
The movie also includes many cultural elements in a humorous way. The idea of including the topic of Duplessis’ orphans in the movie was brilliant and shows that the makers of the movie know what they are talking about. The food topic and especially the details about poutines in the movie were completely absurd and hilarious at the same time. The discussions about hockey and especially the Quebec Nordiques were the best jokes about Quebeckers I have ever heard and I have witnessed many lukewarm attempts.
I’m going to admit that this movie is difficult. Those who are looking for a typical American comedy movie might get shocked by the explicit torture scenes. Those who are looking for a sinister body horror film may not dig the humorous parts. This film is not for closed-minded and light-hearted people who just want to get entertained. This movie will haunt you long after it ended in one way or another. All the things mentioned above make this film something really special. It’s one of the few movies that still try to innovate at all costs. The more I think about the movie, the more I appreciate it and feel like watching it over and over again. If my review intrigued you and you consider yourself an open-minded and tough cineast, I can only warmly recommend you this incredibly entertaining mixture of the joyful and the woeful. For anyone else, try this at your own costs but don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
6 out of 10 stars