This may be obvious to some but it’s got to come out at some point: I love the Horror Genre.
Personally, I think the Horror Genre is a great avenue where one can explore what really fucks us up as human beings, whether it be found in physical mutilation or in mental torture come to life on the big screen but a good majority of the little genres under the great big umbrella term of Horror Movie tend to give the general term a bad name. Aside from laziness incarnate known as the Found Footage Horror Movie (minus a few exceptions, of course), a subgenre of Horror I’m not really a fan of is the Torture Porn.
Now shocking as that may be coming from the same guy who complained about the lack of blood and flying limbs in the insulting shitfest called THE EXPENDABLES 3, so let me explain: Torture Porn always suffers from a severe lack of story since half of the movie is dedicated to indulging all the blood fetishists in the viewing room where the dialogue is literally nothing but screaming, crying and even more fucking yelling. Case in point, the entire HOSTEL franchise.
Yes, I love it when a Horror Movie goes full retard with the scares and gore but giving an entire hour of a two hour movie to nothing but bloody grunting isn’t going to do much for a story meant to scare the living fucking shit out of the audience. The gore and/or gross-out scenes should never overtake the story in terms of priorities and while a good majority of Torture Porn movies get that simple equation wrong all the fucking time, TUSK is by far the only one in the subgenre outside of the first three SAW movies that finally got it right.
TUSK (from 90’s Comedy Icon Kevin Smith of all people) is the wonderfully fucked up story of how a Crazy Old Guy turns a Poor Hapless Dude into a walrus. With that being said, it should be pretty fucking obvious that TUSK shouldn’t be taken too damn seriously and that’s what makes it stand out in the Torture Porn category of Horror: it’s self-aware.
Unlike most other Torture Porn movies, TUSK knows how stupid its premise is and decides to just have a roaring (dark) good time with the audience instead of trying to deduce the darkness of the human soul or whatever the fuck. While movies like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST waste a lot of energy trying to shoehorn some deep message about how far humanity can fall when left to its basest desires, TUSK just goes nuts with its walrus centered plot by being a subtle parody of all things Torture Porn. Taking all the basic elements of the Torture Porn Movie such as the Outlandish Gory Premise or the Incredibly Hammy Psycho Bad Guy and then sprinkling it with the classic Kevin Smith style of writing, TUSK revels in all the tropes and cliches of the subgenre but never forgets to focus on a story driven by Human Beings that are more than Oblivious Masochists that literally walk into the Psychotic Killers’ Arms just in time for the climax.
While its characters won’t be remembered any time soon, TUSK stands strong among its Torture Porn Contemporaries thanks to story alone. The pacing is well done, giving a lot of time for the tension to build up before the goddamned walrus even makes an appearance but by the time the walrus DOES pop up, things grind to a halt. All that tension and horror are traded in for 90’s Monologues commonly seen in Tarantino Rip-Off Movies, and while these speeches may be interesting and plot relevant at times, they often felt dragged out and self-indulgent in TUSK. As TUSK drags its fins all the way to its out-of-place ending, it switches Genre Gears at every given opportunity in its continued efforts to be more than just a regular Torture Porn Movie. From a Thriller it switches to a 90’s Style Crime Story with monologue loving detectives right before it decides that it’s best to end things with an Darkly Comedic B-Movie Tribute that would make Robert Rodriguez shed tears of joy; thanks to a stylistically confused second half, TUSK’s overall narrative suffers from a lack of focus on its way to the ending, which is a pity because everything in the first half was pretty fucking good and tense.
As mentioned earlier, it’s highly unlikely anyone would remember any of the characters a few days after seeing the movie but then again, this is a Torture Porn movie with slightly more story but it’s worth noting that the cast at least looked like they were just having fun in a movie with a pretty fucked up premise. In a Torture Porn movie, it’s the gore and not the character arcs that take center stage and for a movie that has a dude made into a walrus, TUSK is surprisingly visually tame.
But that’s far from a bad thing.
On the contrary, TUSK’s scares are found in the “less is more” department of Horror and this was a wise choice made from the very start. While other Torture Porn movies would indulge themselves and go all out in trying to make their audiences vomit as fast as possible, TUSK takes the mature route and simply scares the fuck out of you by implying what happened to the rest of Justin Long’s body as he’s slowly turned into a cheap copy of an Arctic animal instead of eyefucking the audience with gallons of blood. Granted, the actual walrus in the movie looks like a laughably cheap-ass cosplay and a SILENT HILL monster reject at that but TUSK did a good job making a dumb premise look as painfully horrible as possible. It’s a pity that after the walrus finally shows its ugly mug to the viewers, TUSK decides to keep the poor bastard in the backstage quite often. And while that’s not happening, TUSK’s way of amping the tension is to have characters talk about it instead of doing what visual media like a movie do on a daily basis: fucking show it. While it works for the first few times, having characters talk about the horrors of the situation and the killer behind everything for roughly half the movie’s final act really does get tiring and tedious. Wallace is fucked, we get it, now can we please go back to seeing how fucked up he actually is?
Yes, TUSK is a parody of the Torture Porn but goddamn it movie, be proud of your ugly fucking brainchild. Talking about tropes and cliches is different from deconstructing them onscreen and TUSK has a problem balancing these two methods of parody, giving a good number of good scares alongside boring talk that leads nowhere. TUSK is literally the only movie in existence that has a man-walrus hybrid in it and it should’ve been all cocksure about that instead of taking one step forward and then taking two more backwards every time it was time to show some (flayed) skin and bone.
TUSK will not be remembered as one of the Horror Genre’s greatest entries but it definitely has Cult Status written all over it, and I mean that in the best way possible. While it does drag out way too much by the latter half and everything outside of the walrus is not that memorable, TUSK shows that you can have a Horror Movie loaded with gore, scares and generally fucked up human beings and still have a decent enough story. Its greatest fault is that it never dares to be anything more than just a parody of the Torture Porn but as it is, TUSK is something people who are either sick of Horror Movies that are so full of their own shit (hello HUMAN CENTIPEDE franchise) or are just plain bored to death by the new brand of “horror” embodied in shit like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY should check out.
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