I have my fingers crossed. I really think Joe Hill is going to become an important named in Horror. I have really enjoyed his books, and have been waiting for the film adaptation of Horns for nearly two years now. The beautiful thing about Horns is that what is frightening in the story is not the thing that appears to be ugly, but is instead those things that are meant to be comfortable. Ig Perrish (played by Daniel Radcliffe) is let down and betrayed by everyone he cares about in this story, and the heartache that accompanies those revelations comes across with absolute clarity in the film, just as it does in the novel. If you find the idea of your mother telling you how she really feels about her children troubling, just picture your mother telling you she doesn’t want to be your mother anymore, and then you’ll have an idea of what the character in this story goes through. Only, it gets much worse. This is one moment when I can say a film did the book justice.
I was doubtful of the choice to cast Radcliffe as the lead in this film. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and not think of him as Harry Potter, but instances in which I have tried in the past have led to poor endings. In particular, I just couldn’t buy him in The Woman in Black. To his credit, that film failed in a lot of ways beyond his control. Screen shots and posters depicting Radcliffe donning the titular horns also looked bad. By the time I got to see the movie, I’d braced myself to be disappointed. The good news is that Radcliffe works. Despite the fact that he is not a convincing “drunk stumbler,” I warmed up to Radcliffe quickly. He does have the capability for shocked expression that’s necessary to play this character, who is thrown for a loop at every turn. Juno Temple is also absolutely gorgeous as Merrin Williams, though don’t expect to google the actress’ name and see images of her character. She looks nothing like this sweet girl in real life. It was good to see some fresh faces in the cast, and notable entries are Max Minghella, who plays a outstandingly easy to hate Lee; and Joe Anderson as a drug addled Terry Perrish. If you think bad acid trips are scary, you will appreciate Anderson’s performance. Honestly, his punishment for not being the brother he should have to Ig made me feel sick to my stomach. It also made me happy to see that David Morse and James Remar played the types of characters I think they portray best: well meaning dads.
There is also great editing at work here, in terms of how the flashbacks and non-linear narrative are handled. I had some concerns about how the big reveal of the story would come, as a lot of the big surprising facts in the story come in the form of premonitions that are brought on by Ig’s magical horns, which also cause anyone around Ig to have the sudden desire to tell the truth. Although some aesthetic changes had to be made to the ending of the story, I felt that they were necessary as it would be difficult to translate the exact ending of the novel onto the screen. Of course, I don’t want to go into too much detail, because this movie is so new and I’d hate to spoil it. Suffice it to say, there is still a big ending filled with eye candy, it’s just a sweet of a different flavor. And, have no doubt, there are some moments of humor in here. Hill likes a dose of irony, and there are some real moments of it in this tale. Seeing an annoyed mom tell her screaming child what she really wants to do to shut her up is probably funnier than you’d think. And, that slutty girl? It turns out deep down she just wants to get really, incredibly fat; and if you tell her to go for it, she will eat donuts and soda until she feels sick, and then she’ll keep going. I guess those examples seem awfully dark, but trust me, laughs are here.
There were a couple of negligible issues I had with the film. For starters, the costume designer really screwed up with Ig’s look. The color palette of his clothes is unnecessarily icky, and even the texture of what he’s wearing made me uncomfortable. You will be subjected to a couple of hours of Daniel Radcliffe’s patchy chest hair, swishing out of the top of his v-neck, should you watch this film. Ig is supposed to be a guy who has hit rock bottom, but they really made him look gross in a way that is more difficult to look at than it is convincing. And I know this is petty, but I hate the guys shoes. He looks like an old school hair metal fan in those puffy, white hi-tops. Get that crap off my screen.
The only other complaint I had is that the CG snakes, although not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, looked bad. In the scene when Lee is covered in snakes (Minghella), I felt like I could actually see the rendering, and could imagine the desktop computer image of green screen backgrounds, and strange tube shapes lain over the image of a squirming actor. The snakes WERE needed in the story. It’s part of Ig’s power that the snakes are drawn to him, and sort of do his bidding, but, in my heart of hearts I always wish for animatronics and tricks of the camera instead of digital animals.
On the whole, I enjoyed watching this movie. Perhaps I am biased because I so love the book, but it really is a totally original idea that leaves readers, and viewers, feeling a wide range of emotions. Brace yourself for catharsis. And, if you’re thinking “dang, I wish I had already read the book before I saw this movie, because it’s so good,” then have no fear. Just go out and pick up Hill’s Heart Shaped Box instead. I have a feeling we will see it on the big screen in the future.