Perrish is in for some Kafkaesque body horror, but at least there will be
productive side effects. Those horns he finds growing from his temples are like
paranormal sodium pentothal when it comes to getting people to reveal their
hidden secrets—the darker and more shocking the better. Sadly, he will employ
his grim new talent to find the murder of his lifelong girlfriend in Alexandre
Aja’s Horns (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
was a pariah in his Twin Peaks-ish
Pacific Northwest town, even before the horns. Nearly everyone assumes he
murdered Merrin Williams, the love of his life, who had just thrown him over. Unfortunately,
he does not have one of those alibi thingamajigs, but there is no direct
evidence tying him to the murder. The situation just continues fester until his
wakes up with the mother of all scarlet letters sprouting from his head.
most people hardly notice the horns and promptly forget them shortly
thereafter. Nonetheless, when talking to Perrish in-the-moment, everyone develops
a wicked case of TMI, answering his questions with brutally revealing honesty. Weaker
characters can also be somewhat susceptible to suggestion. Only a handful of people
appear immune to Perrish’s power, including Merrin Williams’ utterly bereft
father and their mutual childhood friend, Lee Tourneau, who now represents
Perrish as the local public defender.
on a novel by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son), Horns is definitely a genre film, featuring plenty of macabre and
outlandish scenes. However, it is surprisingly engaging on an emotional level,
especially for a horror film, but even by the standards of conventionally
square drama. Viewers will really care what happens to Perrish and mourn the
pure-hearted romance that was violently cut short.
the horns and all, it is not surprising to find so much religious symbolism and
subtext, but the film’s deep moral center comes as another pleasant surprise.
While Perrish’s uncanny growths erupt after he spurns God (following an
encounter with a highly judgmental clergyman) his salvation will come (if
indeed it does) through the honest fate of Williams and her father Dale.
all great, but Horns genre mechanics
are also quite strong. Perrish’s supernaturally enhanced interrogations are
quite cleverly written and often darkly comic. Yet, Aja still takes care of
horror movie business, steadily building the sense of foreboding and genuine
Radcliffe, who used to make kiddie movies, is terrific as Perrish, convincingly
getting at his deep-as-the-marrow pain and angst, rather than hiding behind
hipster bravado. David Morse manages to be even rawer, providing the film’s
moral touchstone as Dale Williams. Juno Temple is almost too spritely for Merrin
Williams, but Max Minghella’s Tourneau has some memorable moments too
complicated to explain here.
It is debatable whether Horns is really a horror film or a dark urban fantasy, but it
should thoroughly satisfy fans of both. It is a strangely powerful film that
hits a heck of a lot of bases. Highly recommended, Horns opens Halloween Friday (10/31) in New York at the Village
Labels: Body Horror, Daniel Radcliffe, David Morse, Joe Hill