Friday night at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, Kevin Smith (yes, @ThatKevinSmith) held his annual panel at the fandom Mecca; this year, the panel was themed around Smith’s latest film, the podcast-inspired horror Tusk. At that panel, the film’s first trailer debuted.
Smith’s film began life on the longest-running of his many long-running podcasts, Smodcast. He and his longtime friend/co-host Scott Mosier spent the bulk of Smodcast #259 “The Walrus and the Carpenter” discussing an online joke ad about a man seeking a roommate who would be willing to dress as a walrus for a predetermined amount of time, in exchange for room and board. In the episode, Smith and Mosier begin to morph the story into a fake film idea and, over the course of the discussion, you can hear Smith come to realize that he would actually like to make the film. At the conclusion of the podcast, Smith left it up to listeners to let him know if they wanted to see the film be made; he asked only that they take to Twitter and tweet “#WalrusYes” if they did want to see it or “#WalrusNo” if they did not want to see it. The overwhelming majority of response was in the affirmative, and roughly just a year later, the film is complete and has an awesome trailer. This is precisely the kind of novel filmmaking a young 24-year-old Kevin Smith would have never dreamed possible, way back when his <$30,000 indie film Clerks managed to launch him, and many of his friends, into a film career that has now lasted two decades.
Check out the trailer:
Tusk, frankly, looks fantastic. I’ll admit that I have a bias and would like anything Kevin Smith makes, but this trailer genuinely gets several things right: first, it feels different. This does not feel like other films that have been made. Right off the bat, it’s about a podcaster. Podcasting is a field that, despite having now been in the public lexicon for approximately a decade (or more), hasn’t really been featured in any films, let alone a film of this size. Second, it puts Michael Parks front-and-center. Justin Long is ostensibly the film’s lead (and I’m certainly a fan), but there can be no doubt that this film’s dramatic lead is, and always has been, Michael Parks, who previously lent the same gravitas to Smith’s Red State. Third, the film feels funny and horrifying, without over-saturating itself with either. This is obviously just the trailer, so the film could have an entirely different feel, but going on what we see here, you can tell Tusk takes itself seriously but only really as seriously as a movie about one guy turning another guy into a walrus can be taken. I loved Red State, but its very clear religious and political overtones made the film inherently weighty and polarizing. There’s no way Tusk will have any kind of similar effect; if it does, you’re watching it wrong.
In making short work of assembling and completing the film, Smith was able to assemble quite a fantastic cast. In addition to Parks and Long, the film stars Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Ralph Garman, Harley Morenstein, and an unknown dude by the name of Johnny Depp. As a longtime fan of Kevin Smith, I have to say that I am absolutely reveling in his current creative cascade of cinema. In my estimation, he doesn’t seem to have ever made films with the zeal and frequency at which he is currently operating, and I am loving it. Perhaps his is what should be described as the truly transformative tale.
Tusk will transform (sans Michael Bay) its way into theaters on September 9, 2014. I will be first in line to respond to this particular ad. #WalrusYes, indeed.