Big fan of Joe Hill and his novel Horns. Also a fan of Alex Aja. This movie though… Hmmm…
Horns, 2014. Dir. Alexandre Aja, Written by Keith Bunin. Novel by Joe Hill. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Joe Anderson, Max Minghella.
This movie is just weird! Which, to be fair, is exactly what Joe Hill said it was going to be when I asked him about it at SDCC (he was there signing for Locke & Key, I love Locke & Key). And Alexandre Aja is not exactly known for his straight forward, not weird horror movies. Weird is maybe to be expected.
I don’t know. I didn’t hate it. I don’t think I loved it. I’m still kind of chewing on it. In some ways it was exactly what I wanted, in others it was pretty disappointing.
I’m going to try really hard to avoid spoilers but I can’t promise some won’t slip in. It’s a little hard to talk about Horns as a film and an adaptation with out potentially giving something away. Sorry in advance?
Joe Hill, if you don’t know, is Stephen King’s son. I read Horns a bit before I found out they were making an adaptation and I really enjoyed the novel. I do think it’s almost impossible to not compare it to King’s writing. It is shades of Stephen King, the small town nostalgia for days past, looking at that magic childhood summer through rose colored glasses. That dark truth hiding there just under the surface. It’s also something different, something uniquely its own. If anything it reads more like a homage to King rather than a derivative work, if that makes sense.
Either way, its a cool story with some great character work at its heart.
And I think that’s where this movie doesn’t really work for me. It gets the story, it gets the romance between Ig and Merrin. It even does okay with Ig and Terry. What it doesn’t get is the relationship between Ig and Lee. Which all things considered is maybe more important. That’s the dynamic that drives everything. It’s Ig’s weakness. And his strength.
By the nature of being an adaptation, things are necessarily left out. Simplified. That’s generally okay as long as the film gets the heart of the story. The feel, the tone. Aja does manage to get a lot of that. This really isn’t a bad adaptation. I can’t particularly point to any one thing and say “that shouldn’t be there.” Well, okay, maybe a scene or two I didn’t love. And as a fan of the book, I’m really sad they left out the bit with grandma in the wheelchair. If you read the book, you know what I mean.
The part I had the hardest time with though is Ig’s character arc. Radcliffe is great with his performance. Pathos is a thing here. Yet, as much time as he spends showing anger, frustration, and grief, I don’t really feel much of the changes happening to him. It’s really a great transition, or should be, that Ig goes through. Starts as an angry, pathetic, ultimately harmless kind of loser. Turns into something dark, powerful, and horrific. Realizes his weaknesses. Then embraces his strengths. Probably damns himself in the process. Again, I understand things need to change when moving from book to film. But I don’t think his arc was one of them. I think that all could have fit nicely into the film. It’s sort of there but not really.
There’s voice over. Voice over happens. Voice over, especially in a movie like this, is almost never a good thing. It’s explaining things that it doesn’t trust the audience to understand. It’s taking the easy way out.
That’s my opinion on it anyway.
There are other things I could talk about but then I’m definitely getting into spoiler territory. What’s my overall verdict? I think I need to watch it again and wrap my head around it. Let go of the expectations my brain was holding on to. It doesn’t quite do it for me as an adaptation but there are some bits that I really do like a lot.
Should you see it? Sure. It’s a weird, mostly fun thing. Will you love it? Maybe, maybe not. Not a super enthusiastic endorsement, I know. I think it’s worth watching though, especially if you’re a fan of the book. It’s a fun book to see on screen.
Should you read the book? Um, why haven’t you already? Why are you reading this instead? Get out of here, go read something worthwhile. Like Horns. By Joe Hill. You might find it in the horror section.