Based on the novel by Joe Hill (which I thoroughly enjoyed), Horns is part horror, part comedy. Though this film seemed to focus more on the elements of comedy than horror, I still enjoyed the ride…for the most part.
When news first broke of this film adaptation and I heard Alexandre Aja had signed on as the director, I was psyched. Alexandre burst onto the scene in 2003 with the impressive High Tension, a film that was marred only by its senseless twist ending.
He followed it up in 2006 with the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, a film I enjoyed more than the original (no disrespect to the master Wes Craven intended). Then he bored and disappointed me with the lackluster film, Mirrors (2008). And when I saw Piranha (2010), I was a believer in Mr. Aja again. So how does Horns rank on Aja’s résumé?
Well, the script followed the book for the most part. And I still can’t decide whether or not that was a mistake. The comedic elements worked in the book, but did they work in this film? I’m not too sure.
Yes, I laughed at a lot of the jokes and the confessions the characters made to Ig. But some of the lines fell flat and I personally felt that all the jokes and religious satire took away from the horror aspects of the story.
The film centers on Ignatius “Ig” Parish (Daniel Radcliffe). Ig has had a rough go of it the past year. He’s been accused of killing his girlfriend, Merrin Williams (Juno Temple). He loses his job. Everyone in town treats him like an outsider. Not even his parents believe he’s innocent. And he’s being represented by a public defender, because he’s the only person who believes Ig’s innocent and doesn’t want him to cop a plea.
Things take a bizarre turn when Ig wakes one morning to discover a set of horns protruding from his skull. More disconcerting is the fact that while people tend to notice the horns, they don’t react with extreme terror or run in the opposite direction. In fact, if they look away for more than a second, they sort of forget Ig even has them.
But the horns have quite the influence over people. The horns make random people feel compelled to confess their darkest (or funniest) sins to Ig. They also seem to possess the power of manipulation, as Ig as able to control or influence the actions of several characters throughout the film.
Embracing these horns as a gift instead of treating them as a curse, Ig uses these newfound abilities to try and find Merrin’s true killer.
This is unlike any role Daniel Radcliffe has ever played, and I think he admitted so himself. He really surprised me here. I’ll confess, when he was first cast in the lead role, I groaned. I was like, “Him?” But I’ll be damned if Radcliffe didn’t prove me wrong here. He really brought Ig Parish to life in a way I never thought possible. He was sympathetic and vulnerable without the horns. And when he acquires them, he becomes a whole new character, while still managing to retain that vulnerability. And dare I say, he was pretty funny in this role too.
Max Minghella plays Lee Tourneau, Ig’s lawyer and childhood friend. And he did a fantastic job in my opinion. Lee is smart, cunning, devious, and that’s just how Max Minghella played him. I imagine it must be hard to be play a likable character who ultimately becomes the antagonist of the story, and Minghella pulled it off.
Joe Anderson plays Ig’s brother Terry, who was with Merrin the night she was killed. Terry constantly looks like something is gnawing away at him and wears a mask of regret throughout the entire film. Anderson really captured the internal struggle that Terry was faced with.
Michael Adamthwaite plays Eric Hannity, another of Ig’s childhood friends who grew up to become a police officer. He’s also a closet homosexual with intense feelings for his own partner, feelings he reveals in the presence of Ig and his horns. I’m not too familiar with Adamthwaite, but he did alright in his role. Though some of the jokes revolving around him grew stale. But you can’t really blame any of the dialogue on the actors.
With a terrific supporting cast that includes James Remar and Kathleen Quinlan (Ig’s doubtful parents), Heather Graham (a waitress who claims she saw Ig with Merrin the night she was murdered), and David Morse (Merrin’s vengeful father), Horns is differently worth one viewing, especially if you were a fan of the book.
I’m giving this flick two and a half stars (or a 6.5 here on Moviepilot). Don’t let that rating deter you. I did enjoy this film, just not as much as I expected to. I am however looking forward to a possible film adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel NOS4A2 in the future. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one!