At Comic-Con on Friday night, Kevin Smith premiered the trailer for his upcoming horror film, Tusk, the story of a podcaster who is drugged, kidnapped, and then surgically turned into a walrus by a retired sailor. The film stars Justin Long (Die Hard 4) and Michael Parks (Django Unchained), as well as Haley Joel Osment and Génesis Rodríguez, both of whom joined Smith on stage for the panel “The Musk of Tusk: An Evening With Kevin Smith.”
In the trailer, we’re introduced to Wallace (Long), a professional podcaster who travels around collecting stories and “interviewing strange or interesting people.” He's coaxed up to Canada by a letter from Howard Howe (Parks), who claims to have a story from his seafaring days of shipwreck and then survival with the help of a walrus.
Howe drugs our intrepid podcaster and then begins the strange process of transforming him into the very creature that rescued him years ago. While there's very little real body horror on display in the trailer, we do get to see bloody surgical tools, splashing around in dark tanks of water, and Justin Long being terrified - which, as anyone who remembers Jeepers Creepers will tell you, he is really good at.
Smith seems to have a strong grip on the feel he’s going for with Tusk. It is is at times funny and very clearly from the mind of Kevin Smith - the two Canadian cashiers are a good example of this - but it takes dark and and genuinely disconcerting turns before bobbing back up and being a little funny and then turning grim again. The best films that see-saw between horror and comedy are perfectly timed and keep the audience unsure of whether or not they should laugh or cringe (see Joon-Ho Bong’s The Host or almost anything by Sam Raimi). The worst of these clash horribly and cancel each other out.
Tusk was conceived during an episode of Kevin Smith’s podcast, SModcast. Smith and his producer Scott Mosier spent nearly an hour discussing a classified ad posted by a man searching for a live-in companion who would be willing to dress as a walrus. Smith and Mosier surmised and improvised and entire story based on the advert. Following this, Smith instructed his followers to tweet at him with the tags of either #WalrusYes or #WalrusNo if they did or did not want him to adapt the story into a film; there was an overwhelmingly positive response. The catalytic ad was later revealed to be a hoax by Chris Parkinson, a fan of Smith's, who has subsequently been attached to the film as an associate producer.
And now here we are, watching a trailer for a movie about a professional podcaster being slowly transformed into a walrus. Whether this curious process of creating a film (fake post followed by rambling podcast followed by rabid twitter campaign) is exactly what’s right or wrong about the Internet is anyone’s guess. But on the surface, Tusk feels like one of those ideas that you had with your friends one night while stupidly drunk. At the time, it seemed brilliant and awesome and the best idea ever. In the morning, not so much.
All that aside, Tusk's trailer is impressive. Justin Long is well cast to hit both the comedic notes and the deep terror that his character will experience, and Michael Parks is hypnotic to watch - especially that laughing, screaming, gnashing thing he does near the end of the trailer. And while Kevin Smith has made a number of missteps in his career, the trailer above makes it seem like Tusk won't be one of them.
Tusk is set for release on September 19th, 2014.