A film in which the main character is accused of murder, pleads innocence, and then sets out to clear his or her name is nothing new. “Horns” based on the 2010 novel written by Joe Hill, takes that familiar plot, and gives it a radical transformation. At the start of the film, Ig Perrish, portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe (The Woman in Black), is a tormented man, and the pariah of the small town he lives in. Most people in the community believe he brutally murdered his long time girlfriend, Merrin, played by Juno Temple (Killer Joe). The only reason Ig is still free is because key evidence has been destroyed. However, the destruction of the evidence presents a double edged sword, because it could have provided proof that he wasn’t the killer.
After a night of hard drinking, during which Ig performs a sacrilegious act while relieving himself, he wakes up and discovers he has horns growing out of his forehead. That in and of itself would be enough to freak anyone out, but along with the horns, comes supernatural power – the power to compel people who he comes in contact with to reveal their innermost thoughts and desires, regardless of how private or incriminating they might be. Furthermore, the horns give Ig the ability to make people act exactly the way he wants them to. For example, he has the members of the media, who have been relentlessly hounding him, beat each other up; informing their collective assemblage, that the winner will get an exclusive interview with him.
Armed with his new abilities, Ig sets out to find the truth behind Merrin’s murder. Through a series of flashbacks, the viewer is shown how the relationship between Ig and Merrin began, as well as the incident that transpired a short time before her murder. It doesn’t help that a gossiping waitress, Veronica, played by Heather Graham (From Hell), is outright lying to the patrons of Eve’s Dinner about the events that took place on the night Merrin was killed. Everything she says leaves no doubt as to Ig’s guilt.
In addition to the previously mentioned cast members, in the role of Ig’s best friend and lawyer, Lee Tourneau is Max Minghella (The Social Network). For some unknown reason, which will only be made clear to the viewer and those who haven’t read the book, later on in the film, he can’t see Ig’s horns. Not only can’t he see the horns, but they have no power over him. Joe Anderson plays Ig’s drug using brother Terry, who may know a good deal more about the night of Merrin’s murder than he is letting on. In addition to Lee, he is one of the few people who believes that Ig is innocent of the crime. Even Ig’s parents, Derrick and Lydia, who are acted by James Remar (Dexter) and Oscar and Golden Globe nominee, Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13), admit to Ig while under the power of his horns, that they think he is the one who committed the murder. Another actor of note is two time Emmy nominee David Morse (The Green Mile) who portrays Merrin’s grieving father.
Directed by Alexandre Aja (High Tension), the film premiered on September 6, 2013 at “The Toronto International Film Festival.” Written for the screen by Keith Bunin, the movie is a blending of the drama, fantasy, horror and thriller genres. I was looking forward to watching this film. I applaud Radcliffe for taking on the role of Ig. He continues to distance himself from the iconic boy wizard he brought to life on screen in the Harry Potter films. His character is someone who a viewer can feel sympathy for, and his American accent was perfect. With that being said, at least in my opinion, the film doesn’t live up to Hill’s novel. Certain events that took place in the book, were only touched on in a tertiary manner, or not at all. In addition, the conclusion of the 120 minute movie, which left out a good portion of what transpired at the novel’s end, felt rushed. I would gladly have invested an additional ten to fifteen minutes of my time watching this film, if there was more inclusion of the tree house of the mind, which I know is meaningless to those who haven’t read Hill’s novel. It was one of the parts I wanted to see shown on screen, but it was completely ignored by the filmmaker.
While the film never had me scared, I guess depending on a viewer’s sensitivities, there are moments that some might find intense. For those of you who are afraid of snakes, this is a movie you will want to skip out on. When it is all said in done, “Horns” is certainly watchable, if for no other reason than Radcliffe’s performance, but I felt too much that went into making the book the page turner that it was, was left out.