Director – Alexandre Aja
Cast – Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Heather Graham, Joe Anderson, Max Minghella, Kathleen Quinlan, Sabrina Carpenter, Kelli Garner, David Morese, James Remar, Laine MacNeil, Mitchell Kummen, Dylan Schmid, Jared Ager-Foster, Erik McNamee
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Horns is one of the most hyped horror films of 2014, and for three reasons. The first is it comes from director Alexandre Aja, who has been fantastic in his films High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes remake, Mirrors, and his previous film, Piranha 3D. I myself was excited to see Aja direct this because his last three films had been remakes, while this is just an adaptation. The second reason is it stars Daniel Radcliffe, of obvious Harry Potter fame. He did well in The Woman in Black, and I was surprised to see him return to the horror genre…and with an American accent. The third reason is the book the film is adapted from, also titled Horns, which debuted in 2010 to positive reviews and praise. Based on these three elements I was sure this would be a unique experience. Seeing the film head directly to VOD and not receive a wide theater relase disappointed me, but after viewing this film I can see how it would not appease to the masses. The hype was(still is) big, but don’t let that get to you because the hype exceeds the film. It’s still good though, with Aja’s direction solid, an engaging two-hour story, and Radcliffe delivering a solid performance, making Horns a fun film that I suggest you check out.
After the mysterious death of his first and only love, the aftermath leaves Ig Parrish with strange horns growing from his temples. Plagued by accusations that he had a role in her death, he uses his newly acquired powers to find and kill her killer.
This is writer Keith Bunin’s first feature film screenplay, and he does a fair job piecing this story together. The story kicks off quickly, and by the 15 minute mark Ig has awoken to strange horns growing from his head. We are never told what exactly lead to the demonic attribute, but I would assume it had something to do with what he did at a candlelight vigil for his deceased girlfriend, where he was wrongfully chastised by those in attendance. He then begins to learn of the negative and positive attributes associated with his horns, and uses these to his advantage in piecing together what happened the night of Merrin’s murder. Bunin writes in plenty of conflict for Ig, which stems mostly from how those around him are treating him. He lives in a small town and that means he grew up peacefully with most of those who now see him as a monster. As he searches for her killer the conflict only increases, with lie upon lie slowly unraveling as each shocking revelation takes place. Ig is unaware that there is more to the story than simply finding out who killed Merrin, but he will soon learn just how over his head he is. With this being a two-hour effort it takes an engaging story, with solid direction, to keep the viewer glued to the screen. This was mostly the case, as the story also delved into the past tense with flashback scenes to Ig’s childhood. These scenes serve as background information at first, but by the end of the film the events of the past will surface and have a heavy effect on the final act. I did want more from the supporting characters and was disappointed at how some of them were used. Ig’s parents were pretty much worthless, and even his closest friends, which includes his brother, were used in a very basic fashion. The story overall is a cool one, but if you pay attention to the details you may feel a bit underwhelmed, as I did.
I have seen others refer to this film as a “gothic thriller” and for the most part I agree with that. I do consider this a horror film, but it did not include the amount of horror that I expected. Judging from the trailer I was anticipating Ig delivering some demon asskicking to those who wronged him, and while some of that did occur it was not on the level I had hoped for. We do see a few kills and they are both gory and dramatic, but don’t expect the usual Aja experience here – this is his most tame effort to date.
Aja’s direction does not suffer as a result of a tame story. From the get-go he immerses us into Ig’s world with awesome sets/locations and engaging cinematography from Frederick Elmes (Eraserhead, Blue Velvet). Horns is blessed with an abundance of good performances from the actors involved, with Radcliffe of course stealing the show with his American “accent” – a jaw-dropping rarity for most. The execution of the horror is good, although keep in mind that there isn’t as much horror as one would expect. When the horror does hit though it hits hard and Aja effectively delivers it in full-frontal fashion. There are even a few scenes that produce the awesome gore that Aja is known for. In fact, these scenes were so good I could not help but laugh…in shock.
Overall, Horns is a “cool” experience that won’t bring as much horror as genre fans want but is still a worthy watch in the end thanks to Aja’s direction. Check it out.