H O R N S (2013)
SLASH’S FUCKED UP FRIDAY
Wow, first the break from tedium with the RED CHRISTMAS features, & now I am taking a reviewer’s holiday in between each film within the series franchise I am working on; case in point, the FRIDAY THE 13TH lexicon. Next week we will dive right back into Crystal Lake with FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989).
But this week, horror-hounds, I am reviewing HORNS (2013).
This film is based on the book, HORNS, by Joe Hill aka Joseph Hillstrom King, aka the son of Stephen King.
He is a lover of horror too, & is both an author of horror novels as well as comic book writing. So far, he’s had three successful books, including HEART SHAPED BOX & NOS4A2.
The screenplay for HORNS was written by Keith Bunin, a prolific television writer for years, who wrote 7 episodes of IN TREATMENT.
This movie is directed by the mercurial Alexandre Aja, considered a Modern Master of Horror, a member of the SPLAT PACK, those directors who specialize in horror films, along with Rob Zombie, James Wan, & Eli Roth.
Aja has directed 10 films since 1997, including THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006), MIRRORS (2008), & PIRANHA 3D (2010).
The film stars Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Kelli Garner, Heather Graham, James Remar, David Morse, & Kathleen Quinlan.
Aja said, “It is pretty amazing since Daniel approached us first for the role–he had read the book & the script, & he really wanted to do it.”
Taglines: He will bring out the devil in you.
Love hurts like hell.
The film score was written by Robin Coudert, who has composed scores for 15 films since 2005, including JIMMY RIVIERE (2011), MANIAC (2012), & GRAND CENTRAL (2013). He has released two albums in France.
The cinematography was done by veteran Frederick Elmes, who has lensed 49 films since 1970, including
ERASERHEAD (1977), VALLEY GIRL (1983), BLUE VELVET (1986), MOONWALKER (1988), WILD AT HEART (1990), THE ICE STORM (1997), RIDE WITH THE DEVIL (1999), BROKEN FLOWERS (2005), & HBO’S OLIVE KITTERIDGE (2014).
Aja said,”Fred really came through for me, creating a sort of David Lynchian hyper-suburbanism, that does not feel quite real. So the movie plays out like a fable.”
The movie is 120 minutes long, & it was filmed in/around Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
THE BABES OF HORNS:
We are ecstatic that the sexy Heather Graham,
who played Veronica,
is our lead-off Babe;
she never fails to score high tit-shot kudos.
Juno Temple, an up & coming young actress,
played Merrin, & even early in her career,
she is not shy about total nudity.
Kelli Garner played Glenna,
& she had me at the name;
her tit-shots are lovely as well.
Kendra Anderson played Nurse Delilah.
She did nude scenes for TV’s COPPER.
Veteran actress Kathleen Quinlan played Lydia.
I hunted around for some earlier nude shots of
the younger her.
We meet Iggy Perrish passed out from a dead drunk, after an idyllic opening scene with him & girlfriend, Merrin, cuddling & kissing on a colorful blanket in the forest.
He struggles to his feet & looks outside, seeing a dozen news reporters & equipment trucks waiting for him. Iggy’s narration, like in a good Noir crime movie, helps to drive things along. Merrin has been raped & killed near the childhood tree house she & Ig frequented, & now he is the prime suspect in her demise; which is tearing him up emotionally.
After a dalliance with a big-titted blond waitress (whom we find out always hung around with the boys, giving them hand & blow jobs in order to be popular), Iggy wakes up with both a tremendous hang- over, & pain in his temples. Looking in the mirror, he sees two horns beginning to grow out of his skull.
Suddenly, he undergoes some kind of metamorphosis, because everyone who sees him with the horns, which develop fast, begin to voice their darkest fantasies or ill wishes–I want to show everyone my cock; I’ve alway felt that way–a pair of cops who want to kiss passionately, & suck each other off–
a woman at the medical waiting room who wants to kick my screaming daughter in the fucking head, or just drive off & leave her; or look up the jigaboo golf pro who she has fucked several times, calling him her five-iron, or the priest who says, you are a demon, & though I cannot have the courage to kill you, do me a fucking favor, take the rope I have in the shed & hang yourself,
a doctor who stops trying to saw the horns off Iggy, & begins to fuck his nurse, who loves to take it up the ass, & so on, & so on, his own parents admitting they think he is guilty, & wish he would just go away, out of their lives, so that they could be happy again.
Iggy has an older brother, who is both a successful jazz artist, & strung out on drugs; a real lost soul–who is secretly in love with Merrin.
Iggy’s best friend is Lee, who grew up to become a lawyer, & whom has secretly been in love with Merrin since childhood as well.
His devilish powers, that enable him to get people to confess their sins, soon lead Iggy to the truth, as flashbacks fill in the puzzle pieces relative to each character’s motivation. This fantastical set of circumstances is pure Joe Hill, & somehow I bought every facet of it.
Needless to say, all the questions are answered, the plot pieces locked together by the end of the film. The “absurd contrived” ending is far from it. On the contrary, the plot is true to the premise, & the resolutions are oddly logical, once you accept the world of the writer.
Rotten Tomatoes rated this film at 41% Critic’s Approval, with a 49% Audience Approval.
Chris Sawen of EXAMINER.COM wrote: “Daniel Radcliffe gives an absolutely incredible performance that HORNS does not seem to really appreciate. But the ludicrous ending derails the movie from what was otherwise quite the gripping mystery thriller.”
Philip Martin of the ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE wrote, “This is an uncomfortable hybrid of fantasy, horror, & romance genres–with several elements of black comedy & religious allegories drizzled in.”
David Keyes of CINEMAPHILE.ORG wrote: “There is a moment late in the picture where one almost envies the position of the deceased–because at least she has been provided some level of escape.”
Brian Viner of the DAILY MAIL (UK) wrote: “Horns is not quite a horror film, not quite a who-done-it, not quite a comedy–indeed not quite much of anything, except a stuttering attempt to bring Joe Hill’s source novel to the screen.”
Bill Gibron of POP MATTERS wrote: “For a genre that rarely deviates from the cyclical & the tried & true (torture porn or 70’s throwback terror), HORNS is a welcome bit of weirdness.”
Geoffrey Macnab of the INDEPENDENT wrote: “Alexandre Aja’s sprawling, wildly uneven film suffers from its continual shifts in storytelling style. It is at its best as a TWIN PEAKS-style mystery with supernatural elements.”
Doing my research, I admit to thinking this could be a morphodite, or more specifically a hermaphrodite; a film that is part everything relative to genre, weakening its impact. This was not a movie that would have been easy to adapt from the imagination of Joe Hill, & his award-winning novel. I could not have been more mistaken.
The ambitious vision of director Alexandre Aja brought the film into rarified air, made it specifically straddle several genres, creating perhaps a whole new one a horror/thriller/fantasy/love-story/dramedy–at least, even beyond that. Horror & fantasy have gone together forever, especially these days, when excellent television series like SUPERNATURAL, GRIMM, & CONSTANTINE flourish, plus a plethora of VAMPIRE series & movies.
A couple of elements have to be included to succeed with such audacious material. One needs good writing from someone who fully understands how important it is to stay grounded in kind of a reality, no matter how outrageous the plot structure becomes–one needs to have some kind of human interest love story for the principles, & supporting cast; thus the popularity of the TWILIGHT series, & how hot (thanks in part to the technological advances in CGI) the DC & Marvel films have become, capitalizing on 70 years of comic history–then one must have the best CGI & F/X they can afford so that an audience can “accept” the world of the story, because the audience needs to be engaged emotionally, viscerally, even intellectually, as in the Ridley Scott Sci-Fi films.
Now this movie did not become a box office giant, making a modest return. Part of the reason for this is that people are still struggling to accept Daniel Radcliffe as anyone else but Harry Potter; even Sean Connery went through this with his James Bond persona–interesting that Daniel Craig, who was already a name actor, & is one of the best of the many Bonds, has no difficulty pulling off diverse roles in other kinds of films (Jesus, check him out in INFAMOUS, as the seductive killer, Perry Smith).
So Radcliffe just has to face those demons, & his struggling is not without supreme efforts on his part to break the type-casting; he performed naked on stage in EQQUS, & his daring performance as intense gay Allen Ginsberg in KILL YOUR DARLINGS (2013) blew me away. I must say, in HORNS, Radcliffe, Juno Temple, & Max Minghella are are Brits, & their American accents are all without flaw.
So, it seems that Shia LaBeouf was originally cast as the lead in this movie. Who the hell knows, given LaBeouf’s temperament, what the fuck went south to the point where he was replaced by Radcliffe. But, sad to say, if LaBeouf had done the part, which he is capable of doing, there would have been bigger box office receipts, bigger profits for all.
So the bottom line is I absolutely fucking loved this movie! I was in the perfect mood for “something completely different”. the F-Word was used liberally, & correctly, seeming to be a realistic way to express much of the tight dialogue. Alexandre Aja, showed me, as he did in MIRRORS (2008), that he could provide a vision as fresh as abstract art. I had no difficulty accepting all the supernatural fantasy elements as they developed, because, in part, the movie was about madness, insane grief, crazy pain, runaway emotions, & so, yes, there was a David Lynch, or Tim Burton vibe to much of what we watched.
Nothing felt mundane or boring, or even totally realistic. The liberal use of extended flashbacks worked well to fill in, explicate, & illuminate the plot. The make up & special effects were outstanding, with the gore kept to a modicum, yet what violence that occurred was handled expertly.
There was a beautiful nude love scene in the tree house between Radcliffe & Juno Temple, heightening the believability of the Love theme; whereby these lovers had moved from adolescent infatuation to deep emotional commitment, had stayed together since they were children, were made for each other. It helped a lot, too, that the actors had real chemistry together; something unable to be faked.
There were several humorous moments, as the comic elements of absurdity burst upon us. The plot element where Ig, as a demon/devil could force anyone, even his family, into both confessing their darkest fantasies & then act upon them was truly fascinating to watch.
When Merrin broke up with Iggy on the very night he was going to propose to her, the emotions became very realistic. We could all tell that her story about “wanting more space, a chance to be with other people” was bull shit, but I did not see the real reason coming.
The religious allegorical elements, & the fantasy leaps were all well played. The death of Merrin, the mystery surrounding it, the truth about her rape & death, though not completely unexpected, worked adequately.
Robin Coudert’s score was excellent, fresh, effective, pleasing, helpful. Frederick Elmes’ cinematography made British Columbia both fanciful & beautiful, heightening the tragedy of the events that unfolded. There was no sophomoric hand-held or jump cut editing; lots of smooth crane, helicopter, tracking & dolly shots.
I enjoyed the in-jokes, like letting Iggy drive a Gremlin, or Iggy’s car license plate being 2036LUK, Luke, 20:38, about angels becoming demons, or the brother Terry having a license plate of GEN 138: Genesis 1.38–about envy, or the diner being Eve’s, & it was in that parking lot where Iggy first comes into contact with the snake.
Most of the several snakes used in the film were real, using an actual “Snake Wrangler”. As an actor, I would have to have had an adult diaper on to let a python wrap itself around my neck; kudos to Radcliffe for working with the real snake(s).
The character of Merrin’s name probably came from Father Merrin, played by Max Von Sydow in THE EXORCIST. And subtly, as in the movie SEVEN, all the deadly sins were worked into the plot.
I love the critic that called this “a welcome bit of weirdness”, because that is exactly what it was. Those critics who bitched about the film not making up its mind as to what genre it wanted to be, were ill-prepared to view something so original & audacious. They were the type of critics who always are Nay-sayers, narrow-minded, & old fashioned; fuck them.
The IMDb rated the film at 6.5 stars, but usually hard-ass Me is rating the movie at 9 out of the 10 stars in our HH rating. This is a film that can be appreciated drunk or sober. Even the ending is both tragic & happy, not allowing itself to betray the imaginative premise of the whole film.