Joe Hill has been making a name for himself as an author for the last several years. He has published some critically acclaimed novels including last year’s NOS4A2 and Locke & Key, a comic book published by IDW. Joe Hill is also the son of unbelievably prolific creep Stephen King. It’s admirable that Hill would take on a pseudonym to distance himself from his father, but the connection is quite obvious as soon as you read any of Hill’s prose. Hill’s career hits a new milestone now with the release Alexandre Aja’s Horns, the first film based on one of his novels. Does his work stand up to cinema any better than his father’s?
Horns is the story of Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe), a young man accused of murdering his longtime girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple). Ig awakens one morning to find horns growing out of his head. These aren’t just your run-of-the-mill horns, though (I wish!). No, these are horns that make people tell Ig how they really feel. Finally, Ig thinks, a way to find out who killed Merrin. And that’s what he does.
That’s all Horns is, really. A straightforward murder mystery with a slight supernatural bent. Only this supernatural twist eliminates all of the interesting aspects of a good whodunit. A well-made mystery usually involves a bit of detective work, a search for clues, what-have-you. But because Ig has these magical horns everyone has to automatically tell him the truth. So he just goes from person to person, asking them questions. How convenient! There are moments where Ig hears things he never wanted to know, but these scenes are overly dramatic and overblown (as with waitress Heather Graham and Ig’s brother Joe Anderson) more often than they are affecting and poignant (as with Ig’s father James Remar and Merrin’s father David Morse).
Perhaps we give Horns the benefit of the doubt and say that some of the “out there” performances are intentionally so. But if that is the case, then where is that tone throughout the rest of the film? Sure, once the culprit is revealed that person’s performance becomes ridiculous, but these moments stand out in a negative way from the rest of the mundane feature.
But the real question on everyone’s mind is: how is Harry Potter’s American accent? It starts off real shaky – I couldn’t tell if he was supposed to be American or Irish, which is kind of impressive if you consider the fact that the actor is neither. By the end of the production however, Radcliffe’s dialect coach seemed to be earning his or her paycheck, as I actually stopped thinking about the fact that I was watching a British actor pretending to be American from time to time.
I don’t have much to say about Horns in general. It is an incredibly middling film. Not offensive in any substantial way, but without anything to really recommend it. Honestly it would not feel out-of-place amid the likes of It or Cujo or Christine, save for a few modern effects. Hill really is his father’s son – there are some interesting characters amidst some visceral brutality – but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Surely a half-dozen Children of the Corn sequels are off-set by The Shining. Perhaps a filmmaker will come along who can crack Hill’s style. Aja probably isn’t that filmmaker, though. Until that happens, Horns won’t make him any enemies at least.