Fantastic Fest 2014 Review/Interview: HORNS

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Based on the popular and acclaimed fantasy novel by Joe Hill, Horns is a captivating film that combines various genres and themes within a fantasy.  Director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, Piranha 3D) and his crew brings a distinct visual style that works wonderfully with the story elements.  The story revolves around the aftermath of a murder.  Ignatius Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) has been wrongly accused of the murder of the love of his life, Merrin (Juno Temple).  Ig hits rock bottom as he can no longer handle the loss of his love and the false accusations of those who should know him well.  After a serious bender, Ig wakes up with a most unpleasant surprise.  He awakens with devilish horns growing out of his head and soon discovers the powers they have over people.  On the positive side, these magical powers may be able to help Ig solve the mystery of Merrin’s murder and clear his name.  Still, such dark powers manage to reveal some ugly truths about himself and the people he thought he knew well.

With an adapted screenplay by Keith Bunin, Aja’s Horns works mostly well. The climax does get a bit silly and outlandish, or at least more than is necessary within the context of the film.  Also, the ending of the movie is slightly questionable within the mythology of the story.  Still, everything else leading up to these moments works exceptionally.  Director Alexandre Aja, who attended Fantastic Fest, took some time to speak with me about the making of the film.

I asked the director how exactly did he get involved with this movie.  Aja stated, “Everything started with my agent sending me a copy of the book.  I was looking for projects.  I started reading the novel, and right from the first chapter I kind of knew that it was obvious that I had to make this movie.  The writing of Joe Hill contained so many things that were attracting to me: the dark humor, the crime mystery, the thriller, the supernatural, the drama, the love story–all that together.  I was turning pages. I was laughing. I was crying. I was scared and then I was back to laughing.  It was such an interesting, challenging story and felt so personal in many, many aspects.”  I asked Aja about the challenges of adapting the novel in a faithful manner. He passionately stated, ” My fight as a filmmaker was to be sure that everything I love from Joe Hill’s novel was in the movie and try to create a similar experience for the viewers that I had with reading the book.”  That love is clearly evident in Aja’s finished product.

Hill, Bunin, and Aja do some fine work combining the various subgenres in the story and the entire cast all perform superbly.  Radcliffe, best known as Harry Potter, has now begun to shed his juvenile image and has shown some range and maturity, especially in this film.  In addition to Temple, whom I already mentioned, the movie stars Heather Graham, Kelli Garner, James Remar, David Morse, Max Minghella, Kathleen Quinlan, and Joe Anderson. Horns is definitely a film I’d recommend to fans of dark, gothic fantasy.  I have not read the novel, but after speaking with Alexandre Aja, I’m confident that fans of the book should be pleased.




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