Horns (the movie)

My inside sources were able to provide me with an advanced copy of the film adaptation of Horns. Yeah, I know – I’m kind of a big deal. Commoners won’t be able to see the film until this coming Friday (October 31st). Actually, it was available for early rental on Amazon Prime; I guess that’s somewhat comparable to having an exclusive inside source. I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this film for some time, so when I stumbled across it, I rented it immediately. My unsurprising assessment? The book was better.

The premise, of course, is the same as Joe Hill’s novel of the same name (see my input in the Book Review archive). After a particularly drunken evening, Ig Perrish awakes to find he has one hell of a hangover and a pair of horns growing out of his head. His new appendages come with the ability to know people’s darkest truths. On top of everything, Ig is the prime suspect in the murder of his girlfriend, Merrin. Dealing with his unresolved grief, the enmity of his friends and family, and his new gift, Ig decides to take matters into his own hands and vows to resolve the mystery of Merrin’s death.

The movie is not bad. It successfully maintains the book’s impressive blend of humor and melancholy, and the tone is dead-on Joe Hill. Moreover, Daniel Radcliffe is just plain great. I have not seen D-Rad in a movie since the first Harry Potter; he has grown into quite the actor. I’m going to marry him (sorry, Steve). Then I could be called “D-Rad,” too. But I digress. Dan nails down an American accent to such a degree that I forgot he ever was Harry Potter. That is the struggle of every child actor, isn’t it? To shed the very role that made him or her a household name? Radcliffe will not have a problem – he is Ig Perrish, and after seeing his portrayal, I cannot even envision anyone else in that role.

In spite of the glory that is D-Rad, Horns is not without fault. For one thing, the partial narration is annoying. Sometimes, a scene is voiced over by Ig, but not with any consistency. There are maybe two narrated scenes in the whole movie. Do it or don’t. Frankly, they should have just dropped it entirely. It felt like the intention was a Morgan Freeman-type narration  à la The Shawshank Redemption, but they just don’t follow through.

Then there’s the problem of Lee Tourneau. Joe Hill’s Lee is an absolutely abysmal and horrifying character. In the novel, Lee’s eye is blown out with the cherry bomb instead of the fingers that he loses in the film. Book Lee is so evil and creepy, and the missing eye is a key component to this ambiance. That ambiance doesn’t really exist in the film, which merely achieves a hit-and-run concerning the truth about Lee. In the novel, this character is introduced innocently enough in a flashback of Ig’s childhood, but Hill methodically reveals increasingly disturbing information in a fashion that best exposes the menacing reality that is Lee Tourneau. This is one of the most bothersome villains that I have encountered in the genre, and he is all but ignored by the film. This is a colossal waste of source material.

Horns is definitely worth seeing, but only in the sense that what it lacks may inspire viewers to turn to the book. Daniel Radcliffe’s performance truly reveals his versatility as an actor, and this is perhaps the final step in shedding Harry forever. Nevertheless, Horns is a little lackluster asides from Radcliffe. See the movie, but also make sure to read the book.

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