Arts Review, Movies
Alexandre Aja, director
Keith Bunin, script based on the novel by Joe Hill
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe (Ignatius “Ig” Perrish), Max Minghella (Lee Tourneau), Juno Temple (Merrin Williams), Joe Anderson (Terry Perrish), Kelli Garner (Glenna), Heather Graham (Waitress), James Remar (Derrick Perrish), Kathleen Quinlan (Lydia Perrish), David Morse (Dale Williams)
There are Christmas movies and Easter films and July the 4th (and we can pretend the 1st) summer blockbusters. So why not a Halloween film? Voila—Horns, a film in which a poor fellow named Ig Perrish wakes up with a devilish couple of appendages above his eyebrows.
Horns’ lead actor Daniel Radcliffe achieved legendary status playing a wizard so he hardly would turn down an opportunity to play another fantasy figure. But his Ig Perrish isn’t the bookish reluctant hero of J.K. Rowling’s books. Horns comes out of the other major fantasy writer of the past few decades, Stephen King, by way of his son, Joe Hill. And make no mistake, Ig is stuck in a situation that is pure horror.
After a dreamy opening in which Ig and his beloved Merrin (Juno Temple) pledge to be together forever, he wakes up to a very grim reality. Merrin is dead and everyone blames him. She was found, battered and molested, in a forest right outside of town, soon after Ig and Merrin had a very messy public fight in a local diner. Ig’s parents, brother Terry and best friend Lee (Max Minghella) are backing him and so is the local “bad” girl Glenna. Apart from that, all Ig is encountering is bitter anger, especially from Merrin’s father, Dale (David Morse).
But things aren’t bad enough for Ig. Suddenly, he sprouts horns. And with the horns comes magic powers. Everyone tells Ig the truth—for example, his parents really do think he’s guilty and wish that he would disappear. But, amazingly, that’s not all: seems the horns cause complete honesty in everyone he encounters. A doctor and his nurse stop a surgery because they’d rather have sex. Two cops admit that they’re gay. You get the picture. It’s all sorta funny and very odd.
Up to this point, about a quarter of the way into the film, Horns is so strange, it’s actually interesting. But Hill and scriptwriter Keith Bunin and director Alexander Aja have a plot to crank out. Who, after all, killed Merrin?
Ig has to recreate the evening, with results that implicate a family member and friend as well as a waitress. The narrative is given to us, pell-mell, in bursts that seem incoherent most of the time. You actually wish the creative team wouldn’t bother with the mystery but what’s a film without a plot?
Horns does have genuinely creepy scenes involving snakes and a brutal fight. Radcliffe makes the best out of Ig; you almost care about his fate. It’s interesting to see three Brits—Radcliffe, Temple and Minghella—playing Americans and, of course, their accents are impeccable. Best of all, the wonderful character actor David Morse (from the TV shows Treme, House and St. Elsewhere and such films as The Green Mile and The Indian Runner) is given a few scenes as the embittered father of the dead girlfriend, Merrin. Somehow, Morse makes you care; that is truly the sign of a fine actor.
Should you see Horns? Maybe. Or maybe you should eat some pumpkin pie and wait to see it on your laptop in a couple of months.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical 96.3 FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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