Thursday, 30 October 2014

Horns (2013)

Based on the popular novel by Joe Hill, Horns is a supernatural drama directed by Alexandre Aja. And a damn fine one it is too. I LOVED the book, it became one of my instant favourites of the past few years, and this movie is a decent adaptation. As long as you remember that things have to change from page to screen.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Ignatius "Ig" Perrish, a young man who isn't very popular in his home town, to put it mildly. He's just gotten away with the murder of his loved one, Merrin (Juno Temple), and nobody believes that he's actually innocent. Well, nobody except perhaps his brother (Joe Anderson) and his best friend, who is also acting as his lawyer, Lee (Max Minghella). And his parents (James Remar and Kathleen Quinlan), of course. Except . . . . . . . Ig finds out that his parents actually have concerns about just what their son is capable of. He finds out after waking up with horns growing out of his head one morning. Horns that seem to cast a spell on the people around him. They find themselves suddenly telling Ig their darkest thoughts. There's a chance that Ig can use the horns to find out what happened to Merrin, but there's also a chance that they will just cause him more pain and suffering than he's already been through.

Written into movie form by Keith Bunin, Horns gets a hell of a lot right for an adaptation. Changes are made that help maintain focus on the most important characters, extraneous background stories are ruthlessly chopped out, and the unfolding "whodunnit" structure is successfully ported over, allowing viewers to make discoveries alongside Ig as he tries to use his new powers to find out what really happened, even if it turns out that he still has some blame to carry upon his own shoulders.

Aja isn't as at ease with the direction here as he has been in with most of his past movies, seeming to struggle with the balance of drama, love and mystery here that he hasn't really had to deal with before now. Don't take this the wrong way, but this is more The Lovely Bones than Satan's Little Helper, although it has the streak of dark humour that helped make the book such a great read.

Radcliffe is pretty great in the lead role, it has to be said. It's another big stride out from the shadow of Harry Potter, and he seizes the opportunity with relish, making a great Ig Perrish (wavering American accent aside). Temple is a good choice to play Merrin, a character who has more of a presence in her death than many others have while living. Anderson and Minghella both do really well, Remar and Quinlan are always good to watch, Heather Graham has fun in a small role, and the always-great David Morse is great, obviously, as the father of the deceased, a man who wants to hate Ig more than his inner gut and heart will allow.

Horror fans may find this a bit lacking, it's not especially bloody and never tense or scary either, but it's something a bit different from the norm, and it mixes the dark and delightful in a way that should please those of us who acknowledge that "the devil has all the best tunes" and, as AC/DC once sang, "Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be".


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