One of the “curses,” if I can even call it that, a “blessing,” in rare instances, of putting some mileage on your lifeline is that when it comes to watching movies you slowly begin to understand there are no original ideas left and I’m convinced that what the more clever filmmakers, fiction and comic book writers do is take everything that inspired them and create a recipe with this one, single, subconscious ingredient mixed in that ends up making the all too familiar taste like something you’ve never experienced before.
By the time Horns was over it suddenly hit me that it sort of reminded of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (1992). Both movies are about characters that lose a loved one, renounce God and become cursed into becoming monsters, and the deaths of these loved ones still manage to influence their lives to a point where both end up ultimately meeting their deaths in the end.
Horns also reminded me of another recent movie I reviewed this year: Odd Thomas (2014). Again both are about young adults with supernatural gifts, girlfriends, a sometimes dark, comic tone, and a final act that becomes a tearjerking nightmare to navigate, for the loss of those girlfriends and their impact on the survivors are acted out remarkably well.
I loved Odd Thomas and Dracula (1992) and I loved Horns. Except for that rape/murder scene in the final act. The last thing I expected when I put this movie on last night was having to sit through my third rape/murder of 2014. On a TV screen, not in real life. I know there was a third movie but I cannot recall what it was. Comparing the rape/murder in this one to the one I do remember from It’s In The Blood (201?), the Horns one, I have to admit, is the lesser of the two evils. But to put it all in perspective complaining about it, I guess, is kind of like if I took a ride on a rollercoaster and then got genuinely peeved afterwards of the nausea and puking I did because of it.
Yeah, I know, shit like that tends to happen.
Just deal with it.
It might have been more prudent, however, had the PR release sheet that came with the movie had a more accurate disclaimer for the act. There are specs listed with all these PR releases including the rating and what it’s rated for. Horns had “rated R for blah, blah, a sexual assault, blah, blah, blah. Okay, a scene of rape/murder is pretty much exactly that. Calling it a “sexual assault” is basically just “prettying it up.”
I guess I’m just kicking myself for not being prepared. I don’t read half as much fiction as I used to when I was youngin’, so it wasn’t until the 11th hour when I learned it was based on a novel of the same name from a guy named, Joe Hill. I’ve been peripherally aware of this Joe Hill for a long time, but again it wasn’t until just this year when I learned he was Stephen King’s son, and seeing a video of him at some convention . . . holy shit, he looks just like a young version of his Dad, too. Point being had a read the novel before hand I would have known about the rape/murder scene and had ample time to mentally prepare myself.
Okay, I think I’ve ranted enough about this part of the movie, let’s move on.
Horns will be movie #3 that has a plot I may not be able to talk in depth about because it’s created as a mystery and like those two others I reviewed (Housebound & Stonehearst Asylum) the revelations are a doozy, which means they’re best experienced cold.
In fact, the colder the better.
On one level Horns is an interesting revenge flick about the hunt for a dead girlfriend’s killer, which the movie starts right off with. Yes, the girlfriend, Merrin Williams (Juno Temple), is already dead as the film opens up. Time frame of which I wasn’t sure of. Recent is what I’d guess, since the press and the locals are still stalking boyfriend, Ignatius “Ig” Perrish (Daniel Radcliff with a startling American accent that took me a little while to get used to), and rightfully accusing him of the deed. The police even believe he did it, and even Merrin’s father, Dale (David Morse), is dead certain of it and would like nothing more than to shoot Ig dead.
But Ig knows he didn’t do it and his best friend, Lee Tourneau (Max Minghella), who’s a lawyer, believes he didn’t do it either. The only lawyer, in fact, who genuinely believes he’s innocent. All the others wanted him to take a plea deal, which he doesn’t want to do.
It’s during a vigil at the location of her death where Ig seemingly gets “infected” with his horns. Her body was found in the woods at the foot of this treehouse they used to hang out in. He’s hiding up in the treehouse, drunk and listening to Dale spew hate for him while others pay their respects. Afterwards he comes down and in a fit of fury stomps on a statue of Jesus and pisses all over the lit candles.
The next morning, after having drunk sex with Glenna (Kelli Garner), this girl he’s known since childhood, about as long as he’s known Merrin, the horns pop out. From this point on all his interactions with people fall into the weird category due to the powers his horns have given him. Everyone he interacts with his forced to confess his or her darkest secrets and sins. They also have an urge to start sinning the very acts they are confessing. So, he can no longer really have any kind of “normal” conversation with others. He also learns he can influence these people to a degree in regards to their sins. Seemingly “good people” can’t see the horns on his head either. He learns this fact when he talks to Lee, which I thought was odd. I mean, come on, he’s a lawyer. A lawyer without sins?! No such thing.
The first part of this movie is more of a dark comedy when it comes to the “sin extraction scenes,” it’s also in this part where at crucial points we flashback to when he was ten years old and we see the friends he was hanging around with, which were Glenna and Lee and one other he calls, Meatbag; real name, Eric Hannity (Michael Adamthwaite), who grew up to be a cop, one of the cops who thinks he actually killed Merrin and who’s hounding him at every step.
These flashbacks also show how Ig and Merrin met and choice moments from their relationship including the night she inexplicably broke up with him at the local diner just as he was going to propose to her. This is the same night she was killed, and his public, angered retaliation to the breakup makes him the obvious suspect.
Ig even has an additional ability, which allows to him to see the memories of those whom he touches, giving us more flashbacks and pieces to the murder puzzle. It doesn’t take long for him to realize his horns may be more of a blessing than a curse, for it’s allowing him to methodically track down his killer through the confessions of the people he speaks to and their memories.
Now that I think about it, his horns are pretty much a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to the scenes when he goes to visit his parents and learns they really never liked him as much as they did his older brother, Terry (Joe Anderson). On the plus side the people who confess to him have no memory later on of having done so. Which again becomes more a blessed edge when he finally confronts Merrin’s killer for the second time. The first time doesn’t turn out so well.
Ironically, the person who hates him the most, Dale, turns out to be the one person he can really talk to in the final act, and he finally believes after seeing Ig walk up to his porch all burned and messed up from his first encounter with her killer that he wasn’t her murderer after all.
The second and final confrontation he has with the killer didn’t go as I expected it would. Actually, in a way, yes, it did but in regards to what Ig was to ultimately become I had no idea. An impressive combination of CGI and practical effects were used.
You know the old saying when you seek revenge you dig two graves. One for the person you’re going after and one for yourself. And this movie plays out exactly that way, thus giving it more of a bittersweet ending than Odd Thomas.
I’m not quite sure I can categorize this as a horror film. Perhaps a dark fantasy. I don’t know. At times it’s both. And the murder mystery was expertly crafted, leading you down one path and then taking a left turn at the last minute, which had me thinking, “Oh, shit, are you kidding me?!” And there’s even a nice twist on Merrin’s character at the very end. A nice explanation I didn’t see coming either as to why she felt she had to break up with him out of the blue. All things I probably would have known had a read the novel, but now I’m thinking I’m glad I didn’t. It made the movie experience (sans the rape/murder) more fun.
Anchor Bay Entertainment releases Horns on separate DVD and blu-ray editions on January 6th.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.39:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English and Spanish subtitles
Video and audio were superb!
What I was disappointed most with Odd Thomas was the utter lack of extras, not even the trailer, at least with Horns Anchor Bay saw fit to add a featurette, The Making Of Horns (18:48), but not the trailer though. It hits all the bases with Joe Hill stating this is the first thing he’s written that’s been adapted to the big screen. Since he’s Stephen King’s son I’m sure this is just the beginning of that. I even expect him to eventually be involved in either a miniseries or a full-length series at some point during his lifetime.
Horns is certainly a keeper and it will indeed be going into my DVD collection, in fact right on the same shelf as Odd Thomas.