Kevin Smith Is Going Into Production With A Walrus Horror Movie

Kevin Smith

The news story was based on a Gumtree advertisement for a rent-free apartment, the catch being that the tenant would have to wear a “realistic walrus costume” of the owner’s own creation. The reason was that the author of the ad evidently spent three years on an isolated island, with only a walrus he named Gregory to keep him company. Missing his friend, the man expected the lodger to play a walrus for up to several hours day, at which time he is not to talk.

Amidst gasps of laughter during the podcast, Somdcast Episode 259 an idea for a low-budget body-horror movie gelled, initially as a joke. The premise being, naturally, that the advertisement is not at all innocent, as these things go. Evidently, however, not having anything to do following the completion of his Clerks III script, Kevin Smith got to work writing the movie. Parts of the story, naturally, are changed to protect from possible legal trouble. The title went from The Walrus and the Carpenter (based on the Lewis Carroll poem, already discussed in Smith’s Dogma), to simply Tusk, which has a great simplicity which makes for effective horror movie titles, and is inspired by the Fleetwood Mac song which the writer was evidently listening to during the writing process.

"No speaking while you're a walrus!"

“No speaking! You’re a walrus!”

Kevin Smith evidently already considered casting, as well, and Michael Parks who was very chilling in Smith’s 2011’s Red State, is onboard to play the horrible landlord. Quentin Tarantino is also being cast as the investigating police officer. The film is scheduled to enter production in September, which will push back the production of Clerks III to early 2014.


 I’m still wrapping up my film career. I intend to close it with Clerks III – which we’re now aiming to shoot March of 2014 (more on that when I get the info. But what I love about all this is that a movie came from a podcast. Might be one of the first situations I ever heard of where that happened, too. I’m delighted by the fact that my new world (of podcasts) is now shaping my old world (of film). New media nourishes old media and together, they produce some weird-ass art. It’s very 21st century.

The film is being made by Blumhouse Productions, which was the studio behind the popular Insidious and Paranormal Activity franchises.

 What do you think, is this too weird to work? Or has Kevin Smith proved himself enough with Red State to make it work?

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds (Photo credit: sdfbss)


When I went into the movie theater in my Quentin Tarantino t-shirt and anti-nazi jacket, I was putting together an apology for writing a non-perfect review for a film by a man whom I consider to be one of the absolute masters of modern cinema. Because, it goes without saying that a movie with mixed reviews from Cannes like this cannot be perfect.

How absolutely stunned and delighted I was to find that both I, and several other film critics, had been wrong. The opening titles were typical of a Tarantino film, with a distinct 70s feel so prominent in his previous work. The title of the first chapter of the opus, “Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France”, brought a knowledgeable laugh from some of the more film-savvy members of the audience, which was perhaps not fitting with the general mood of the opening scene. After this, however, the ride was a flawless one.

Right off the bat, we have an extended dialogue scene, one in which seemingly inane small-talk is spoken by masterfully picked, and very genuine actors. While in Pulp Fiction, however, such a scene merely lead up to a more threatening one, this extended dialogue was merely concealing an artfully intense undercurrent, as we are revealed the true intent of the characters, and their positions. The play with various languages used by the characters does not come off as gimmicky. Instead, international misunderstanding is masterfully used as a source of tension throughout the film, as a way of keeping characters without knowledge of the language painfully in the dark until a climactic moment.

Overall, the eponymous basterds are not given nearly the screen time one would think. This may come as a surprise when one considers how synonymous Tarantino’s name had become with Americana. This, however, is a stroke of absolute brilliance, managing to bring a War World II movie into a modern context, one in which Americans are no longer viewed solely as saviors of Europe. Indeed, the basterds’ role in the final act is near redundant, and their attempts at foreign language are hilarious. This, however, does not detract from the undeniable swagger of the characters. Regardless what else one might say about him, Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine is an absolute master of one-liners. One could say that he is a sort of import into this very European film, along with his tribe of nazi-hunters. The true residents of the Tarantino-verse being dropped behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France to wreak havoc, which is something they are good at no matter how bad they may be at Italian. Eli Roth’s character of ‘the bear Jew” is executed with a chilling amount of pleasure, which is both undeniably fitting for the character, and not very surprising when it comes from the director of the infamous Hostel. Probably the most common hypothetical use for a time machine is gunning down Hitler, and this man does it in the blazing glory of fury that the Jewish character – scratch that, the entire world – deserves.

The surprising self-denial of Americana is also understandable considering that the films that have inspired Tarantino’s often exaggerated estimations of American life come from European masters of cinema, such as Sergio Leone. In this light, Lt. Raine’s bumbling attempts at Italian are revealing, particularly when one considers the fact that his character often acts directly as a voice for Tarantino himself.

The German and French characters, however, provide a level of sophistication unparalleled in other Tarantino films. The performance by Christoph Waltz is absolutely breathtaking. The intellectual SS officer nicknamed Jew Hunter is almost an appealing character, despite also being only one of two nazis with any in-depth character development. While being an absolute credit to the writing, it could not have been pulled off by just any actor by a long shot. <SPOILERS>  His final decision, therefore, to change sides is not a surprising one, despite my initial reaction of disbelief and discontent at the twist. Besides the obvious Nazi factor, the most dislikable, quality of the character is the incessant inclination towards theatricality, which inspires in him both the cruelty to brutally murder a family a Jews, and gallantly allow their daughter to escape. His final faith, therefore, reveals a somewhat weak man – one whose entire manner depends on a position of power. </SPOILERS>

The other nazi with any true depth is Fredrick Zoller, played by Daniel Brühl. This war hero, starring in a film about his own war escapades, is torn between his successful career as a nazi, and his humanity. The conflict comes to the head in a climax between him and a Jewish woman whom he desperately loves, and who only shows the slightest hint of affection for him after his demise.

This finally brings us to probably the truest protagonist of the film – Shosanna Dreyfus, “the face of Jewish vengeance”, played masterfully by Melanie Laurent. A strong female lead in a Tarantino film obviously does not surprise anyone, but her absolute determination in both staying alive and all-consuming vengeance, as well as her stunning beauty far surpasses the samurai-sword wielding assassin from the Kill Bill movies. The actress superbly performs scenes in which she has to pretend to appear calm, when the audience knows the character is anything but – such as when she has to converse calmly with the killer of her family. Her final message to the nazis is that of gleeful victory by one victim over the forces which have swept Europe up in a blazing storm of fire, and so does she end it in a similar way. The scene in which she readies herself for the finale and applies her feminine war paint is awe-inspiring.

This is also true of other camerawork in the film. It reveals an incredible sentimentality, while not being silly or probing for a few cheap tears. The soundtrack, similarly, while being borrowed from film classics (there are a few very recognizable Ennio Morricone pieces), is not a gimmicky. It works perfectly to create a mood in a way that may have been impossible with a modern composer.

The last line of the film is “This may be my masterpiece.” Mr. Tarantino, you ain’t lyin.

Django Unchained

At it’s heart, Django Unchained is a rather naïve film. Not that any of Tarantino’s earlier films have specialized in emotional sophistication, but this is really the only film he’s ever made that is, at its heart, a romantic fairytale about a hero on a semi-mystical quest to save his damsel in distress. Of course, anyone that’s seen the world’s most famous homage artist’s previous work will recognize that’s too simplistic for Tarantino – this particular film is a Germanic legend, wrapped in a 70s spaghetti western, wrapped in social justice served up with a side of bad-ass.

From the first line of the movie “Who’s that stumbling around in the night,” we are in a fairytale, in the middle of a deep, dark wood, with a couple of bad, bad slaver wolves leading a group of slaves through a cold night in 1858. Suddenly, a magically eloquent, knowledgable Dr. Shultz (Christoph Waltz), who seems at first glance to be a dentist, but in actual fact is a bounty hunter, appears. He’s looking for a trio of villains, whom Django (Jamie Foxx) is in a unique position to point out. As the slavers are less than enthusiastic about parting with their newly acquired stock, they are quickly and effortlessly dispatched. The good doctor releases the slaves, and promises Django his freedom upon the dispatching of the no-good Brittle brothers.

This, of course, is merely the inciting incident. The pair quickly become a duo of successful bounty hunters, and after a number of adventures together, set out to find and rescue Django’s young wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is apparently, at the moment, owned by the not-a-little disgusting Monsieur Candy, played to a fault by Leonardo DiCaprio – the one time teenage heartthrob playing a villain that would put Darth Vader to shame. He is unlikeable to a fault, cruel, vain, and frankly not very intelligent.

Along the way to the rescue, Django has a series of hallucinations of his wife watching him, a happy smile across her lips. These visions seem to drive the bounty hunter ever further into the surreally racist territory of Candyland. The evil of the place is palpable enough for a viewer to believe that bringing down that onerous establishment would contribute substantially to the betterment of African Americans in slavery everywhere, terrible though their conditions are throughout the rest of the South the film explores.

Jamie Foxx’s performance as the eponymous Django is characterized by enormous poise and swagger, he becoming the epitome of cool towards the end as he exacts vengeance on the wrong-doers. The last man he punishes in the film is, paradoxically, a black man as well, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who portrays a house slave that bends over backwards to please his master. He seems to lead a rather comfortable live among his owners, at the price of brutally ruling over the other slaves on the plantation.

The major aspect that makes this movie memorable beyond an average spaghetti western is, of course, the exploration of the practice of slavery in the American South. There is no question that in that regard, Tarantino is exaggerating for effect. He takes a practice that is already despised by every decent person, and piles additional half-truths on top of it. To some viewers, this is likely to be off-putting. It isn’t unreasonable to, when watching two men fight to the death for other’s amusement, for example, to ask oneself, “why would I watch this? Why, indeed, would anyone?” Particularly when this isn’t, in actual fact, a historically accurate practice. The answer, of course, is revenge. We watch a film that is in many ways about cruelty so that we may watch those we despise be destroyed in a spectacularly dramatic fashion, so we may experience justice for an event for which we no longer have anyone but our ancestors to blame. This retroactive justice was already explored by Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds, and it is as bloody satisfying in Django.