Review by Yasin Lago
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Written by Keith Bunin, Adapted from the novel by Joe Hill
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Max Minghella, Juno Temple, Kelli Garner, Joe Anderson, James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan, David Morse, Heather Graham
Rated R | 123 Minutes
Release Date: Oct 31, 2014 (Limited)
The title of the latest project by Alexandre Aja, Horns, would have you focus on a couple of appendages growing out of a young man’s head. As it turns out, that is the least of his problems. His physical setback is nothing compared to the mental and emotional toll he’ll take before his world (and reality) completely unravels. As circumstances change, our lead goes from being in a dark place to a literal and figurative descent into Hell.
When we come upon Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe), life for him has begun to take a very intense turn. His beloved (by everyone) and loved girlfriend and soul mate, played as an ethereal forest nymph-next-door by Juno Temple, has been brutally murdered. Ig is implicated in this and is quickly judged by the entire community as the culprit (with no help from waitress/eyewitness Heather Graham). Now town pariah, he begins to settle into this half self-imposed exiled Limbo for lowlifes when…things…change.
He awakens one ordinary morning with hard ridges protruding from his forehead. Immediately spooked, Ig runs to the doctor hoping for some explanation to his latest plight, as he notices some particularly strange behavior from everyone he comes into contact with. Behavior to where hidden inhibitions are thrown out of the proverbial window. Even that inner voice never spoken aloud, is vomiting confessions that arguably shouldn’t even be thought. What’s worse, confessors act on their revelations with a new found freedom that both liberates and horrifies at the same time.
This story was crafted (screenplay by Keith Bunin) from the novel by Joe Hill. Some may remember his acting debut as young comic reader Billy who orders a voodoo doll from the back-pages to exact revenge on dad in a little movie called Creepshow. Now he’s the author of novels Heart Shaped Box and NOS4A2, as well as the short story collection 20th Century Ghosts. Hopefully these will be future film projects, too. As evidence here, he is a great storyteller almost on par with genre peer, casting agent, and father, Stephen King.
Yes, you can see some influence from his poppa in Horns. A little Needful Things, a little Stand By Me; but Hill’s point of view comes shining through, his voice loud and clear. More dark fantasy than horror, this story comes off Neil Gaiman-like rather than King. Hill’s take on good and evil, while using particular supernatural references to stir the imagination, isn’t so clear-cut black and white. The choices we make every day are the same choices we make when it’s vital, difficult, and necessary. The big decisions, when life asks to pick a path at a crossroads. It’s here Hill shows that monsters are really scary, but in the end it is man who is ultimately angel or devil (or, sometimes, both) in every move made. Potentially, man is the worst monster of them all.
Credit should definitely be given to Radcliffe, who could have just done an American version of Harry Potter. He never winks at the idea or us. Whatever you think in the beginning, you won’t see Harry in the end. Even with snakes crawling all over the place, the connection is severed as Ig is played with an eerie calmness like he expects this life change to come.
Credit must also be extended to a great supporting cast, including James Remar, David Morse, the aforementioned Graham, and Kathleen Quinlan as Ig’s mother, whose cringe-worthy soliloquy is downright soul-crushing (pun intended). I look forward to seeing new work from everyone here, director Aja as well. But most especially Hill, who I hope has endless tricks up those sleeves; tricks that treat, of course.