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Horns was the kind of movie I really, really wanted to do well.
Director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes) brings to life the dark fantasy novel by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King). The story turns our beloved Dan Radcliffe (in this film, Ig Perrish) into the devil -- sort of. Meanwhile, Joe Anderson from Across the Universe plays Ig’s trumpet-playing, coke-addled brother and Max Minghella from The Mindy Project plays Ig’s best friend from childhood and his current lawyer. There are a few girls here and there, but one of them is dead and the other has basically thrown her life away.
Here’s the premise: Ig Perrish is in love with his childhood sweetheart. But then she dies -- at the foot of the treehouse they had been sneaking out to for the past 10 years. Everyone blames him, and then he grows horns. The community made him out to be the devil, so he became the devil, “fallen” from heaven without his angel of a girlfriend beside him. Religious references abound, including Easter eggs like Joe Anderson’s license plate, GEN 138, which refers to Genesis 13:8, which reads, “ And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brothers.”
The horns have magical powers, of course. Can’t have a movie with good ‘ole Dan Radcliffe without some magic in it! They make everyone around him tell the truth.
Old ladies tell off mothers with loud children, and his doctor confesses that he really just wants to get high on cocaine instead of operating on his horns. Ig does everything he can to get rid of them, but nothing works. And then the snakes come. Did I mention he speaks Parseltongue? In the book, he delivers a sermon to his snakes.
I see God now as an unimaginative writer of popular fictions, someone who builds stories around sadistic and graceless plots, narratives that exist only to express His terror of a woman's power to choose who and how to love, to redefine love as she sees fit, not as God thinks it ought to be. The author is unworthy of His own characters. The devil is first a literary critic, who delivers this untalented scribbler the public flaying He deserves.
What’s so entertaining about Horns is that it’s absolutely outlandish. You never know what’s coming next (although the big plot twist is pretty easy to spot), and when you think the movie’s over, you check and there’s 20 minutes left. It’s a classic “whodunnit” scenario with a dark twist, and it will make you laugh incredulously.
My main gripe with Horns is that the female characters really were not developed enough, although I'm sure this is the fault of the medium and not the story. I suppose it’s because we’re seeing these women through the eyes of a male character, but Ig’s girlfriend in the flashbacks seems absolutely perfect. His old friend, on the other hand, is a whore (really).
What I like about Horns, though, is that it’s unlike any other horror movie out there today. I don’t need another Paranormal Activity 5; I’m grateful to be able to watch an original story, even if there are a few plot holes, even if it makes you sympathize with the devil. What matters is that it’s entertaining, and one of the few horror movies on Netflix (alongside Oculus) that's actually worth your time.
In short, I know Horns would never win any awards, but it’s addicting to watch. And that’s why it’s on Netflix Instant.
I give it a B-. What would you give it?
Production Companies: Red Granite Pictures, Mandalay Pictures
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Kelli Garner, Heather Graham, David Morse, Kathleen Quinlan, James Remar
Director: Alexandre Aja
Screenwriter: Keith Bunin; based on the novel by Joe Hill
Producers: Cathy Schulman, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Alexandre Aja
Executive producers: Joe Hill, Shawn Williamson, Adam Stone, Joe Gatta, Christian Mercuri, Danny Dimbort
Director of photography: Frederick Elmes
Production designer: Allan Cameron
Music: Robin Coudert
Costume designer: Carol Beadle
Sales: Graham Taylor & Deb McIntosh, WME
No rating, 123 minutes