By the Book: Horns

Joe Hill is an amazing writer weaving unique tales of the macabre.  Through his various novels and comics, Hill has made a name for himself outside of being Stephen King’s son. It is no surprise that his materials have been made into a movie. The adaption of his novel Horns hit theater for Halloween but lacked the intricacies of the novel.

horns-book-coverThe movie follows the same basic premise. Ig’s girlfriend is killed and he is the prime suspect of her murder. The evidence neither clears nor condemns him but he must deal with a town that persecutes him anyway. One drunk, emotional night, Ig wakes up not remembering what he did the night before but finds horns growing on his head. These horns have the ability to make people tell him their darkness secrets, bringing out the devil inside them. The story follows Ig as he adapts to his new talent and as well as solves the mystery of his girlfriend’s murder.

The movie is enjoyable but never reaches its full potential. Unfortunately, Keith Bunin, the screen writer, decided that lots of changes needed to be made to Hill’s tale. The problems start immediately as the movie opens with gushy platitudes and fuzzy emotions that would never appear in Hill’s work. This continues to be a flaw throughout the film, each change softening the edges too far. And it’s not just the additions that hurt the film. Bunin chooses to cut vital information that leave major plot holes. Spoiler: the movie never explains how the horns came about.

Ironically, as most of the changes of the book are the movie’s down fall, the best scene actually does not take place in the book. horns_ver5_xxlgThe movie is at its height when Ig uses his powers to make paparazzi battle themselves to Marilyn Manson’s cover of “Personal Jesus.” This scene manages to define the theme the movie is trying (but never manages) to portray: revenge, though sweet, causes our downfall.

Daniel Radcliffe is the perfect Ig brining to life the description of the character from the book, and the character is pretty spot on. But most of the other characters are warped. Juno Temple’s Merrin is a travesty of the original character and I know the book version would have a few choice derogative terms for her portrayal. She’s not the only one changed. The brother becomes more melodramatic and the true villain is skewed from the start of the film. The characters needed none of these changes, and it detracts from the tale that Hill was actually trying to tell.

The movie is enjoyable if you haven’t read the book but I would never suggest it to you. Instead I would send you straight to the bookstore or library. Horns is a dish best severed in paper format.

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