October 3, 2014
Daniel Radcliff as – Ignatius Perrish
Juno Temple as – Merrin Williams
Heather Gaham as – Veronica
Joe Anderson as – Terry Perrish
Max Minghella as – Lee Tourneau
James Remar as – Derrick Perrish
After a drunken bender in which he destroys his dead girlfriend’s vigil and pisses on a Virgin Mary statue, Ignatius Perrish wakes up with the worst hangover of his life. He also now has horns growing from his forehead. His friend Glenna doesn’t seem surprised to see the horns. Instead, she just asks if she can keep binge eating while shoving fistfuls of chocolate frosted donuts down her throat. As his day continues he learns that not only is no one surprised to see the horns on Ig’s head, but they compel his friends and neighbors to confess their inner most desires, feelings, and sins. What a perfect way to find the killer of his girlfriend and clear his name.
Horns is directed by Alexander Aja. This is the guy that directed High Tension, the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, and Piranha 3D. He has made a career of bloody over-the-top murders. We’re talking concrete saws slicing people open, inbred cannibalistic desert people, and prehistoric flesh eating fish. Horns, however, is Aja at his most restrained. Although still a horror film, Aja brings in a lot of dark humor from Joe Hill’s novel, upon which the film is based. When I first heard Aja was on board to bring the novel to the big screen I was a little hesitant. I expected moregratituous violence. Ig can’t go around hurting people, he’s the hero. He’s supposed to be provinghis innocence, not attacking potential suspects with a concrete saw. I’m happy to see Aja stayed along the dark humor route the book followed.
Daniel Radcliff plays Ig, and he plays it well. You buy his love for his girlfriend, Merrin (played by Juno Temple), because Radcliff brings a naiveté to Ig that completely makes sense. Ig and Merrin fell in love as children. When Merrin breaks up with him, she does the first mature thing in their relationship. As the film continues, Ig matures because he has to. He is forced to grow up and stop trusting those he loves because they’ve all been lying to him. Temple is able to bring a great amount of vulnerability to her character in the limited screen time she is given. However, after seeing her amazing performance in Killer Joe her lack of screen time here makes her seem underutilized.
The only real problem with Horns comes from its script, written by Keith Bunin. The film drops a lot of characters from the book, combining some, and streamlines the narrative well. At 120 minutes, however, the film still seems rushed. There’s never that moment where you’re able to really connect and love the characters like you are in the book. It feels like there is too much time spent with Ig discovering his new powers than developing Merrin’s character, or even Ig’s friends. While this dark humor is a very welcome transplant from the book, it feels like people that loved the book tried too hard to keep as much of it in as possible. This isn’t always a bad thing, but with Hornsthe devil really is in the details.
Horns succeeds because of a talented cast, the subdued direction of Alexander Aja, and a good dose of horror mixed with some dark comic moments when it’s required. The film’s only sin is the rushed narrative that doesn’t give us the time to truly connect with the characters.