Synopsis: A supernatural thriller driven by fantasy, mystery, and romance, Horns follows Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe), the number one suspect for the murder of his girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple). Hungover from a night of hard drinking, Ig awakens one morning to find horns growing from his head and soon realizes their power drives people to confess their sins and give in to their most selfish and unspeakable impulses-an effective tool in his quest to discover what happened to his girlfriend and exact revenge on her killer. Based on the best-selling novel by Joe Hill.
eyelights: its main gimmick. its twisted humour. its terrific cast. its plot development.
eyesores: its obvious reveal. its crap CGI.
“People say you should always do the right thing. But sometimes there is no right thing, and then… well, then you just have to pick the sin you can live with.”
Ig is a young man accused of murdering the love of his life, Merrin. Released on bail, he’s hounded by the media as well as local protesters. Aside for Lee, his best friend, a public defender who is mounting his defense, Ig has few allies: even his parents harbour doubts about his innocence.
One morning, waking up from a bender after having partied with a former childhood friend, Ig finds small horns on his forehead. Though they sometimes disturb the locals, these growing protuberances also imbue Ig with powers that will help him discover the truth about Merrin’s death.
And everyone’s darkest truths.
‘Horns’ is a 2013 horror film with a twist. Based on the Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son, naturellement!) novel, it’s a murder mystery that pokes fun at the masks of propriety that almost everyone wears, removing them to reveal its characters’ deepest, most misanthropic thoughts and desires.
It’s this glance into their hearts’ darkness that make the picture so much fun, because it lets loose what so many of us wish to say but don’t – and then it pushes it a few notches further (Heh heh). It elicits on-screen shock and outrage at every turn but also inspires giddy delight in its audience.
The filmmakers used this gimmick to add a darkly comic tone to the proceedings, complementing the campy quality of the premise: a guy starts growing horns, reacts badly to it, while everyone else are too self-obsessed to really care. Between these two humourous elements, ‘Horns’ is a hoot.
But it’s also a tragic tale: Ig’s world has completely collapsed. Not only has he lost the love of his life, not only is blamed for her murder, not only is he shunned by almost everyone, he is also subject to everyone’s secret truths – which inevitably include his loved ones’ feelings about him.
And it’s not always pretty.
This leads to a number of soul-crushing realizations about the people closest to him, further isolating him in his torment. The only hope left for him at that point is finding the culprit, even if it’s himself, and then exacting revenge on all those who have contributed to the destruction of his life.
Daniel Radcliffe is really quite excellent as Ig. He’s done everything he could do to escape his Harry Potter image and he’s done a credible job of it. He was able to play both sides of Ig: the romantic, optimistic side and the grim, self-destructive one. I can hardly imagine anyone better for the part.
The rest of the cast is also very good, though no one outshines Radcliffe (David Morse comes close as Merrin’s grief-stricken, embittered father). The casting was really excellent on this movie, choosing the right people for the campier performances, and the right ones for the more realistic ones.
The picture goes back and forth between the past and the present, fleshing out the dynamic between Ig and his then-preteen friends, and exploring how Ig and Merrin met, how their relationship bloomed, and showing us all the connecting pieces that blissfully bound them together… forever.
While these nostalgic moments were really enjoyable and sometimes heartwarming, my favourite moments were in the present, with Ig inadvertently using his powers on an old friend crushing on him, turning the staff and patients of the local clinic on each other, or taking the p!ss out of journalists.
These moments really made me laugh and delighted me, and yet they paled in comparison to the impact of Ig having the local priest admit to wanting to lynch him, or of his mother pleading for him to exit her life permanently, or of hearing his father’s devastation at the death of Merrin. Ouch… brutal.
No wonder Ig is enslaved by the bottle.
The third act reveals much, some of which is deeply touching, but the truth about Merrin’s murder was telegraphed to some degree (let’s just say that I wasn’t surprised to find out who was involved…). Having said that, since it was never designed to shock us, the way it was delivered was superb.
The filmmakers, knew we knew – so they put a twist on it.
Where the film fails is mostly on a technical level, specifically with its CGI. I simply don’t understand why the filmmakers didn’t just use real snakes or actually light a car on fire instead of using computers to insert the images into the scenes – especially since this can be done for real. And well.
(Ahem… unlike the sh!t CGI used here.)
Otherwise, though, ‘Horns’ was a lot of fun; it was a really nice surprise. Given its title and the picture of Radcliffe with horns on his head, I would have thought nothing of it if not for Joe Hill’s involvement. So I certainly wouldn’t blast anyone for also dismissing it. But, seriously, it’s their loss.
All hail ‘Horns’.
Date of viewing: October 1, 2016