Kevin Smith’s 2014 horror comedy Tusk stars Justin Long and asks walrus-related questions of humankind – and Hattie has questions too.

Kevin Smith’s Tusk. Maybe you’ve never heard of it. Maybe you’ve heard of it, but you’re yet to watch it because it sounds odd. Maybe you’ve watched it and have been scarred for life. Or, perhaps you’ve, like me, watched it and been left with too many questions. So many questions.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Tusk is a film about a human (Justin Long), being turned into a walrus. The film, created and directed by Smith after the idea was proposed on his popular podcast, is a comedy horror — but it’s more a bizarre question of: is man really a walrus at heart?

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Here’s the basic plot background, with big spoilers obviously.

Howard Howe (played by Michael Parks) is a con artist who dreams of recreating his walrus friend, who he befriended after he was lost at sea. His friendship with the walrus was pure. He felt that the walrus was the only truly human thing in his life. Until he killed him because he needed to eat.

Ever since, after being saved, Howard set out to recreate his walrus friend. He didn’t go to a zoo, nor did he go to an aquarium — instead, he searched for a human. Howard was close to being caught multiple times, and so played various identities to hide away from his crimes. He had several failed attempts at creating his walrus friend — until he met podcaster Wallace (yes, Wallace the walrus, a fitting name).

Wallace was intrigued by a submission from Howard, who longed for someone to live with him to, fully accommodated with full pay. The only catch was, that the person who got the gig  was to perform some duties dressed as a walrus. Desperate to find out exactly what was going on, Wallace went to Canada to see Howard. During a long story about his friendship with the walrus, the two drank tea — except Wallace’s was drugged.

The next thing you know, Wallace wakes up with a missing leg. Howard told him that a huge spider had bitten him, and a doctor had come to save his life — but had to amputate his leg. Confused and out of it, Wallace asked questions, begged to see a doctor, to which Howard remained calm and explained there were no doctors. He even chuckled about it.

When Howard wasn’t in the room, Wallace called his best friend and girlfriend — who were ironically sleeping together. His words were: ‘I don’t want to die in Canada’.

We then see Wallace on a surgery bed, having his limbs amputated, his limbs removed, his teeth removed, and tusks inserted. He then had his arm stitched up to create flippers (laughing as I write this) and stitched him together into a walrus suit made of leftover human skin.

The next bit freaked me out, to be honest. A full scene of Wallace as a walrus, chained next to a pool, with inflated balls bobbing along. There were also screens of chirping birds. Howard had created a monster.

The story goes like this: Wallace becomes a walrus, Johnny Depp plays a cameo detective who has been searching for ‘Howard’ (not his real name), for years. His girlfriend and best friend become increasingly panicked (though were still sleeping together?), and Wallace and Howard eventually have a showdown, where Howard is killed by Wallace’s tusks. Howard thinks it’s beautiful because he believes he really has created a walrus at heart.

But then the questions come in.

After bursting through the doors and being gobsmacked at Wallace the new walrus, Wallace is saved. But he’s kept in an enclosure in a zoo. His girlfriend comes to visit, she chucks a fish at him. He comes out to eat it and makes a loud moaning noise. He has become full walrus.

My concerns are this: why was Wallace kept as a walrus? Why the hell did his girlfriend allow this? Why did she throw him a fish? The questions are endless and confusing.

In my mind, the best bet would have been for Wallace to have returned to his human form, given a hell of a lot of therapy, and tried to make it in the modern world. But really, this couldn’t happen. Wallace had gone full walrus — how could he be expected to be thrown back into the human world when he had accepted (though hated) his new form? And, why was he allowed to remain in an enclosure at a zoo? Would that not scare the kids? It certainly scared me — in a lowkey, funny kind of way.

Perhaps people, including his girlfriend (well, now his best friend’s girlfriend), had also accepted Wallace had gone full walrus. Perhaps they had accepted that there was no way of return. Perhaps they thought this was a good way to make their relationship public.

I personally don’t believe man is a walrus at heart. Obviously. But the film depicts this reasoning of how when forced into certain situations with no return, people have to adapt and realise that this is life forever. I don’t think that was the message Kevin Smith was going for — perhaps more “I’m bored, let’s make this really funny but also really bizarre film”. But it does spark questions around whether, when given no choice, people have to learn to live a new way of life — no matter how much they miss their normal.

But the most prominent question I have, as mentioned, is Wallace’s girlfriend feeding him a fish. I don’t think it was out of spite. I think it was out of acceptance and the realisation that she will never have her partner back (though she seemed to move on pretty quickly). And maybe that’s okay. Maybe feeding him a fish, and telling him she loved him as she watched his walrus form shed a tear, was her way of saying: ‘It’s okay’.

Or maybe Kevin Smith just wanted a comedic ending. That’s the most likely explanation.

Tusk is available now on DVD and digital platforms.


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