The UHF of the film world.
Latest news

rochefort [Celluloid 09.23.14] book horror

“Horns” is the story of Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe), a young man whose girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple) turns up dead mere hours after she dumps him, and Ig is the prime suspect. Shunned by virtually everyone in town, including most of the people he grew up with, Ig searches in vain for the killer, but the search isn’t going well. His wealthy parents (James Remar and Kathleen Quinlan) want him to use one of their big-dollar lawyers to cop a plea. The local cops and Merrin’s father Dale (David Morse) would love to see Ig suffer a tragic accident. And the only people who seem to believe his innocence are his best friend and lawyer Lee (Max Minghella), his wayward brother Terry (Joe Anderson), and Glenna (Kelli Garner), a bar-girl who’s had a thing for Ig since grade school.

After a drunken one night stand with Glenna, Ig awakens to discover horns growing out of his temples. And what’s more, the horns have a bizarre effect on everyone he encounters, and one by one the townsfolk confess their darkest sins and compulsions to him. Understandably freaked, Ig nonetheless figures that his new condition might help him track down Merrin’s killer, so he retraces his steps the night of Merrin’s death, leaving a trail of smashed psyches, sexual abandon and burning bars in his wake.

Director Alexandre Aja debuted with the post-apocalyptic pic “Furia”, but emerged onto the horror scene with his second film “High Tension”, the gore-drenched 2003 home invasion pic with the love-it-or-hate-it twist, and since then he’s had kind of a peculiar career. His remake of “The Hills Have Eyes” was surprisingly not bad, but his films since (“Mirrors” and “Piranha 3D”) have felt like diminishing returns from a director who was once heralded as one of Europe’s new vanguard. With “Horns”, Aja is hoping to get back to big-audience filmmaking.

The novel by Joe Hill is well-liked and star Daniel Radcliffe, whose post “Harry Potter” roles have been smart enough to suggest that he might have real staying power, is a good fit for the material. I personally like Radcliffe quite a bit, and he turns in a really strong performance, and with a couple of bland exceptions so do most of the cast. And the central hook, the hypnotic and revealing effect Ig’s horns have on seemingly normal people, is a consistently entertaining one. A trip to the doctor’s office sets off a trigger effect that leaves everyone screaming and engaged in carnal bacchanalia, and Ig’s woes with the local stalker media take a turn for the better when he suggests they duke it out among themselves for an interview exclusive.

Since this is less a horror film than a supernatural murder mystery, Aja’s signature hyper-violence has been considerably dialed down, and his restraint serves the film well, especially in those moments where he takes off the leash and gets a little crazy.

Instead of rampant geysers of blood, Aja wrings the ferocity out of the confession scenes, some comical, some emotionally blunt, and the high point is a scene where Ig confronts his narcotic-abusing brother Terry that should be the go-to commercial for responsible drug use from now on. But the crux of the story, the mystery itself, is another issue.

I haven’t read the book and no aspect of the plot was spoiled for me, but I guessed the killer immediately, and I have a suspicion that most audiences will do the same. It drains the story of a lot of potential fun and tension, and the few attempts at diversions and red herrings don’t stick. But if you don’t go into this one expecting the mystery itself to be the best part, you might find a lot to like.

You might also like


Lenny (8 years ago) Reply

The book was a powerhouse, the movie not so much. But it was definitly worth a watch. Not sure casual watchers will connect with it much tho.

Leave a comment