Posted: November 6, 2014 in Film reviews

Directed by Alexandre Aja. Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple.

Ig Perrish (Radcliffe) is not having a great time. His girlfriend Merrin (Temple) has been raped and murdered and the whole town thinks he’s responsible. To make matters worse he now has horns growing out of his head, but given these horns seem to compel people to confess their deepest secrets to Ig, he might be able to use this newfound devilish power to determine who really killed Merrin.

I had some trepidations about seeing this film given I had read the book and had been somewhat conflicted about how I felt about it (read my review here) but I decided to give it a go and, on the whole, I’ll give it a tentative thumbs up.

In some respects it’s a faithful adaptation, but some important aspects, themes and scenes are jettisoned, and the timeline is altered as well. The events of the book took place many months after Merrin’s death, whereas in the film things are far more recent and far rawer. I’m not sure the change was essentially necessary, but I don’t think it damages the story in any way. Some of the flashbacks are truncated or omitted, and these do impact somewhat upon the story, in particular towards the character of the villain of the piece. As you might imagine things seem to move a lot speedier in the film, at times this is a good thing, because the book was quite languid in places, but the flipside of this is that sometimes it feels a little rushed.

I’m not sure whether I’d say I prefer the book or the film. I think it’s fairer to say that I like them both in different ways, however when it comes to the issues I have with the tale these are shared by both.

Horns’ main problem is one of tone. It doesn’t quite know what kind of story it wants to be. There are horrific elements but it never really feels like a horror story, and though there’s a murder mystery at the heart of the story there isn’t enough meat to hang a decent detective story on, not to mention a distinct lack of suspects. In places it’s a very dark comedy but at the same time it wants to be an almost sappy romance about soul mates and true love conquering all. There are childhood flashbacks that (perhaps understandably) make it feel like a Stephen King adaptation, and there are also ruminations on the nature of good and evil, and redemption. And at the heart of all of these elements there’s a terrible crime which makes certain of the humorous elements seem in somewhat poor taste, especially several sex scenes that are played for laughs.
At times the story feels almost too thin, whilst at others you wish they would delve deeper into the various elements of the narrative, and as a result the film does feel like it’s all over the place on occasion.

But it’s well directed and, aside from one horrible misstep in the denouement, the subject matter is taken seriously. The cast are good, especially Radcliffe who really has left Potter behind in my opinion, with the only exception possibly being Heather Graham. Maybe it’s down to the nature of her character but she seems to ham it up more than is necessary when everyone else is dialling it back. It might have been intentional but I found her, fairly minor, role a little jarring.

It’s too long. It’s tonally all over the place, and it’s not quite as clever as it thinks it is, but it’s still quite enjoyable and well-acted, it’s funny in places and it’s certainly more original than a lot a films you might see this year and it’s to be commended for that.

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