The walrus man in Tusk, Kevin Smith’s horror comedy about a man who is surgically transformed into a walrus, was not based on a true story, as the film humorously claims. It was, however, inspired by a fake online advertisement in which an old man offers a room in his house rent-free, but with a catch: the lucky tenant must be willing and able to occasionally dress up in a walrus costume and behave like a walrus. The man who created the fake ad is writer Chris Parkinson of Brighton, England. He posted it as a joke, but according to reports from Variety, Parkinson received over 400 responses to the ad.
The transformation from human to walrus is the main similarity between the film and the fake ad. In the film, Los Angeles podcaster Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) and his co-host, Teddy (Haley Joel Osment), ridicule unfortunate people in viral videos, and Wallace interviews them. For an interview with a teenager who mistakenly cut off his leg, Wallace has to go to the outskirts of Manitoba, Canada. After he discovers that the man has committed suicide, presumably because of the ridicule, he finds a flyer posted by an old man who seems perfect for the podcast.
Unlike Parkinson’s ad, however, the flyer does not mention the walrus, and it is not a joke. Instead, it is a lure posted by serial killer Howard Howe (Michael Parks, Kill Bill), a retired sailor obsessed with finding redemption for murdering and eating a walrus that he claims once saved his life. He disfigures his victims and surgically transforms them into the walrus, which he named Mr. Tusk so that he can re-enact their time together and give his savior a chance to live.
How Did The Fake Ad Become Kevin Smith’s Tusk?
Considering the major differences between Parkinson’s fake ad and the film, it may be difficult to imagine how the former inspired the latter. It’s obvious that Tusk replaces the old man with a serial killer and the walrus costume with a grotesque surgical transformation into a walrus. But where do the film’s protagonists come from? The answer to this question is surprisingly simple: They are based on the film’s director, Kevin Smith, and his friend Scott Mosier (Clerks).
In one episode of Kevin Smith’s SModcast podcast, they read the fake ad aloud and laugh about it, thinking it’s real. In the film, the podcasters are considerably crueler than Smith and Mosier, and Wallace’s transformation into a walrus can be interpreted as a karmic consequence of this cruelty. His transformation is also the result of the serial killer’s special relationship with the walrus, similar to the special relationship featured in Parkinson’s fake ad.
While Tusk can only laughably be considered to be based on actual events, Smith’s movie was undeniably inspired by the ad. The film embellishes the story, combines it with elements from the writer’s own life, and applies a classic horror premise to it: a disgraceful man in search of something doesn’t find what he’s looking for but gets exactly what he deserves. Tusk deploys a commentary on voyeurism, a culture of schadenfreude, and the perils of both. Wallace ridiculed unfortunate people for a living and put them on display. The price he paid for that cruelty was to become one of them by the film’s conclusion.
The Fake Tusk Ad Author Explains The Adaptation To Screen Rant
Screen Rant caught up with UK poet Chris Parkinson, the author of “Landlord Seeks Lodger For Walrus Cosplay” – the online accommodation listing credited with Tusk‘s entire existence. According to Parkinson, the escalation of the bizarre but unassuming post led to “the strangest year and a half of his life” (and one of the strangest movies to boot). The project escalated very quickly, and Parkinson was present on-set during the production of Smith’s horror curio.“I got whisked out to North Carolina for filming. I spent a week wandering around a deserted country club, watching Michael Parks muttering lines from my advert in a gloriously sinister way, and coming face to face with some very alarming life-size walrus suits,” Parkinson recalls. “A year later, I was out in LA watching the premiere, although I don’t think anyone knew who the hell I was when I walked down the red carpet.”
Many authors, including Stephen King, hated some movie adaptations of their work. But Parkinson glows about Tusk as a piece of cinema. “I loved it. I think it’s absolutely hilarious. But it horrified other people,” he enthuses. “It’s certainly a bit more sinister than my original advert, but I think that works in its favor. It takes the premise set up in the post and it evolves it to its logical and terrible conclusion. And the ending is probably the most heartbreaking moment in the entire history of cinema. Perhaps man truly is a walrus at heart.” Parkinson met Smith a handful of times and maintains that the legendary director was “kind, welcoming and absolutely hilarious.” However, Kevin Smith initially thought that advert was real when researching the movie. “Kevin didn’t know that it was some guy writing a ridiculous advert on Gumtree (a Craigslist equivalent in the UK) – he thought that people were trying to introduce him to a real guy with a spare room and a homemade walrus costume. Which, given how things turn out in the film, might not be the sort of person you’d actually want to meet in real life.”
As far as the original post goes, over 400 people replied, which, according to Parkinson, “says a lot about the housing situation in most major cities.” But would he have replied having stumbled across the ad himself? “I would like to say no, but I’m always up for a challenge.” Tusk is Parkinson’s only online post that became a movie, although an earlier post created a hubbub on a much more restrained level. “A few months before the walrus advert, I reported a vortex to another dimension on a community road maintenance website. There were snakes coming out of the vortex, and my little dog nearly got sucked into it,” he explains, “It never turned into a horror movie, but I did find a video on YouTube a few years ago featuring a couple of ‘paranormal investigators’ walking up and down my street looking for the vortex. The Internet was a different place back in 2013/4, and there was more space to insert these weird little stories and make the world a stranger and more interesting place, even if just glimpsed in passing.”Tusk received a disappointingly meager theatrical release in the UK, but Chris Parkinson and Kevin Smith contributed something singular to the horror genre. Here’s hoping that the snake vortex movie picks up traction soon. In hindsight, Tusk was a rarity that warrants a revisit.
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