Years ago I saw a TV adaptation of a Mervyn Peake novella called Mr Pye, in which Derek Jacobi‘s eponymous hero is initially so virtuous that he grows angel’s wings. So alarmed becomes Mr Pye that he indulges in some wicked behaviours to offset the growth. This succeeds so admirably that the wings recede, but then horns begin to grow on the Pye fizzog.
I mention this because Horns, an adaptation of Joe Hill‘s novel of the same name is inspired in great measure by Peake’s premise – in fact it steals from all and sundry. Daniel Radcliffe throws off the Harry Potter glasses and scar to become Ig Perrish (cool name, huh?), accused of raping and murdering his fiancée Merrin, which he denies, but possessed of such guilt that he gets blind drunk, sleeps with a barmaid and grows horns.
No initial sign of wings, but then, unlike Mr Pye, Ig is no angel (well, that’s not entirely true, but I won’t divulge too many spoilers.) For one thing, and quite unlike young Harry, Ig is quite sweary, which I put down to Mr Radcliffe attempting to grow up as an actor, but I digress.
While these horny growths on his forehead understandably alarm Ig, they do admittedly have benefits, since everyone he comes into contact with feels an inescapable urge to tell him their innermost secrets, most of which he truly does not want to hear though they are undoubtedly of prurient interest to the movie audience.
More than that, a well-known cinematic ploy is added, in that Ig can touch anyone and suddenly their recent history with his girl runs like, well, a movie, through his head. Quite a useful knack to have in the circumstances, even if the theme is lifted directly from The Dead Zone, much the superior film. Oh, and he befriends snakes, which is at least an ironic nod towards HP, even if they end up doing things you don’t see in the Rowling series.
Suffice it to say, the horns turn out to be “a blessing, not a curse” – but there are more transformations to follow, each progressively sillier than the last. Yes, there is a resolution that ties in the loose ends neatly in a way that will convince nobody, but by then I’d long since ceased to care one way or the other.
In short, Horns becomes a routine accused-seeks-evidence-to-clear-his-name thriller, the sort you’ve seen at least a hundred times, probably a thousand. In fact, I won’t bother to explain any more since it is just plain daft and pointless. Believe me, the whole ensemble veers sharply towards the ridiculous faster than you can yell “Harry Potter.” The narrative ventures so far beyond the snapping point of audience credibility and credulity, assuming you had any to begin with, to the point where you will be scrabbling for the off button barely into the second hour.
Small wonder that Rotten Tomatoes rating came in at a dismal 41%. This is their summary:
Horns is a bit of a tonal jumble, but it offers enough thoughtful horror-comedy — and strong work from Daniel Radcliffe — to hook genre enthusiasts.
There you have it – you need to be a horror movie completest to take an interest. In short, from a promising, albeit unoriginal idea, this film descends into hokum, and mundane hokum at that for true movie enthusiasts.
Ripe, stinking hokum that Mr Radcliffe undoubtedly did not foresee as a post-Potter future career direction, though it is quite clear why Shia LeBouef turned down the dollars and left the way clear for Radcliffe. Daniel, mate, you really should have applied greater discretion and turned down this stinker.