I was excited for Horns when I first heard about it. Look at the pedigree: based on a novel by Joe Hill, starring Daniel Radcliffe who’s made some solid and interesting choices since finishing off Harry Potter (oh… I should rephrase that) and directed by one of the best horror directors working today, Alexandre Aja. Then the reviews came out which were generally a bit shite if I’ll be honest and I figured I’d wait for home release. Well let me tell you: reviews be damned, this is a great little horror movie. If you like it the idea of a film or those involved in it, trust me, follow your gut and ignore the reviews. Although, hang on a minute, this is a review blog and I’m reviewing Horns right now. Okay, don’t trust me either. Horns is still good whatever the case.
Daniel Radcliffe plays the very short named Ig who wakes up after a drunken night to find Merrin’s, his long term girlfriend, brains bashed in and him as the main suspect. Worse, he’s grown a pair of devilish horns on his head which doesn’t exactly make him look like an innocent angel. Joe Hill, whose book this is based on, is the son of Stephen King, and I’m really sorry to say this Joe (although I mean it as a compliment) but the tale has many of your father’s hallmarks. It’s set in a small town, small-minded Maine-like location, it’s packed with interesting side characters with sad and/or dark background stories, and, not unlike It, we have long flashbacks to a group of childhood friends past to inform the current situation. None of this matters of course because it all adds a depth to what is essentially a who-done-it as Ig tries to find out who really did kill Merrin. Plus, you know, I’ve not read Joe’s writing style which might be completely different from his old man’s, I’m just saying there are some similarities. Okay a lot of similarities.
What is different is that there is a lot of humour. One of the side effects of Ig having horns is that everyone is forced to tell the truth when he confronts them. They are also forced to act on this truth which often involves sex, typical pent-up small towners, if they’re not trying to lynch some one (usually Daniel Radcliffe) then they’re just trying to hump each other to death.
The locals are a hilarious old bunch from the two repressed cops looking for an excuse the shoot Ig to the old geezer in the bar who just wants to get his cock out (eventually he does, it’s not impressive). It helps that many of the characters are played by seasoned pros like James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan, and David Morse as Merrin’s broken father. Merrin herself is played my Juno Temple and she has just that right kind of sad and beautiful free spirit feel that gives the whole story, despite its comedy asides, a strong sense of loss and melancholy. Actually although there are enough jokes in the film that you could almost call this a horror comedy, it is still essentially a tale about true love and the devastating consequences violence can have on it. And Juno Temple looks great as a corpse, look:
What holds the whole film together is Daniel Radcliffe. I mean really this should come as no surprise by now but we still mostly associate him with the boy wizard. But here he not only gets his American accent spot on but is able to switch between comedy and tragedy on a spin of a coin. He also looks pretty cool with horns, a pitch fork and a snake around his neck. Also I like his league jacket, where can I get one like that.
If there is a problem with the film it’s that the who-done-it side of the plot, whilst intriguing for the most of the running time, is pretty bloody obvious who the hell did it. Once this is revealed the story peters out a bit, especially as we have half an hour left at that point. But there’s still some good stuff in there and the story is satisfyingly resolved at the end. Plus Aja’s work makes direction look easy with beautiful compositions and nice in pacing. I often don’t like flashbacks in film to be honest but these ones work well as they are long enough to breathe life into the main story with a subtle half-remembered dream like quality to them.
Actually now I’ve come to the end of my review I can safely say I loved Horns. It’s not perfect but it is a beautifully made horror film with the right balance of horror, comedy and tragedy. So fuck the reviews, except this one. Unless you watch it and find you actually hate Horns, in which case fuck this review too.