Movie review: ‘Horns’– a cool little movieSection 4A, Movie Review Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Before I get into my review of Horns, I want to complain about a small part of the film that doesn’t have much of an effect on either the film’s plot or ultimately its quality. Two of the characters in the film, both childhood friends of the film’s hero Ig Parrish (Daniel Radcliffe), are secretly gay and only are able to admit it, and admit their lust for each other, because Ig has developed a weird, Satanic power to make people he meets be honest about their basest emotions. At one point, Ig manages to distract them by using his power to encourage them to finally consummate their relationship; Ig tells them to get over their fears and have some fun. Then one of the men, during the film’s final confrontation, is killed in a particularly gruesome fashion. (I guess that’s somewhat of a spoiler; I hope I’ve been vague enough.)
Back in the day, the presence of gay characters at all was something to celebrate, and these two are mostly good guys, if somewhat dopey. But they exist to be made fun of, and their gayness exists as a punchline and a sight gag – Look! They’re kissing! And then, they are disposable. Other characters survive, but the gay one does not, and beyond one double-take from Ig, his death isn’t even commented on. I’d rather gay characters be included in film ensembles, but the continued use of us as plot devices, kindling in conflict and the butts of jokes shows just how disposable we are to the culture at large.
Aside from this problem, which exists in many movies and even more TV shows, and a few other problems that I’ll get to, Horns is a cool little movie. It is based on the novel of the same name by Joe Hill, which is the pen name of Stephen King’s oldest son. Like King, Hill writes smarter-than-normal horror. In this case, Ig becomes a demon, of sorts, shortly after being accused of murdering his girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple). Everyone in his small town in Washington state thinks he’s guilty, even his parents, but Ig insists he’s not: He loved Merrin more than anything. Why is anyone’s guess, since she’s even less of a character than the doomed gay guy is.
The morning after breaking an idol of the Virgin Mary and pissing on candles left for a candlelight vigil in her honor, Ig wakes up with horns poking through his forehead. But it’s not just unsightly cartilage; people in his presence seem to lose their inhibitions. At the doctor’s office, a mother admits she wants to beat up her screaming daughter. At the local bar, the owner blurts out that he wants to burn the place down for the insurance, and he does it.
At first, Ig is horrified, but then he discovers how useful his newfangled power is, and he uses it to find out who really killed his girlfriend. There are flashbacks to their childhood, to their adolescence and finally to the night of Merrin’s death. The mystery isn’t terribly hard for anyone paying attention to unravel, but how the devil, demons, Christ, and small town thugs all fit into the story is a bit unpredictable. While Radcliffe, as usual, is wonderful — funny, sexy, fierce, and physical — the pacing of the film, either in the editing or because of director Alexandre Aya, is off, both too fast and too slow at odd times. Also odd is how Christianity fits into the plot and themes. It’s never quite clear what the morality of the story is or why exactly Ig gets these horns. But in horror, it’s better not to ask.
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Written by Keith Bunin
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple and Max Minghella
On Demand on Amazon and iTunes
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