This morning I learned that the movie adaption of “Horns” is available as a limited release before it hits the theaters. Is this a sign of a bad movie or a very good marketing ploy? I decided to find out.
There’s a scene in which a character goes on a very bad trip after swallowing a plate full of pills and snorting a bag of coke. His mind races between several disturbing images, climaxing with his body being pulled into a nasty forest. This sums up Alexandre Aja’s adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel “Horns”.
We all know movie adaptations often deviate from the novel that it’s based on. Given time constraints it is never surprising when changes occur; characters and events are cut out, etc. As book /movie lovers we accept this. Oh we may grumble here and there at minor changes, but overall we accept that what we read may not be what we see. What we should not accept is a director rewriting the plot. It is unforgivable that a director would decide that the original material is not good enough to sell. This is exactly what what Aja has done. He has taken a really good book and turned it into sludge. I couldn’t tell if what I was watching was supposed to be a dark comedy or a campy horror movie. I have a sneaky suspicion even Aja could decide which it should be. The results are disastrous.
For those of you unfamiliar with Horns, here is a review I wrote after reading it for a second time. In short, it is an intellectual horror story that begs the question, “At what point do we become the person others expect us to be?” To sum it up, Ig Perrish is accused of murdering his girlfriend after several witness see them fight on the night of her murder but there is no proof. For this Ig is carries around the stigma of murderer. After a night of heavy drinking he wakes up to find he has grown horns. As the story progresses Ig must decide how he is going to cope with his devilish problem. His moral dilemma is deciding what kind of person he truly is.
The novel centers on Ig and the psychological damage inflicted on him by others. We watch as Ig tries to navigate through personal trauma. We sympathize with Ig and come to understand his emotional move from numbness to blind rage. The movie centers on Ig’s transition and his use of it in order to find his beloved’s killer. There is not a lot of sympathy with this Ig, as he seems all to happy to embrace his situation, and uses his new powers, not because he feels pushed to do so, but because he takes joy in hurting others.
Sometimes the written word does not translate well into spoken dialog. This is never truer than with Horns. In the novel the scenes in which the towns people interact with Ig are creepy and lased with malicious undertones. In the movie these same lines are played for laughs. It does not help that several of the secondary actors are so bad that their lines feel forced, as if they cannot believe what they have to say. What could have been truly ugly and horrifying came across as campy at best, and worst, I’d say this movie would be a Razzies winner.
Aja has Ig narrate several of the scenes, as if as he is unsure of himself as a director. At the beginning of the movie he has Ig set the plot, as if the movie audience would be too dumb to figure out the movie’s subtle theme; st least in the book the theme is subtle. Ig’s transition from outcast to devil is not always clear, yet we know the change is happening. I don’t know why Aja bothered with narration. In his version it is very obvious what is happening as the movie goes from an odd murder mystery to a very campy horror story. They say the devils in the details, but Aja doesn’t bother with details. His way of storytelling is to hit his audience over the head with obvious plot points by over use of dialog and gore.
The body count in Aja’s movie is high, the deaths are unnecessary and implies that the director was out for blood. The ending is absurd and so thick with religious imagery I wouldn’t have been shocked to see God come down and point his finger at the killer. This illustrates Aja’s limited understanding of the novel. That Joe Hill seems happy with the movie is surprising. Sorry Joe, stick a pitchfork in this turkey, it’s done.
If you read the book, don’t bother seeing this mess of a movie, but if you like campy cheesy horror movies, movies that make you laugh at inappropriate places, by all means watch the movie. It may be one of the best cheesy movies you’ll ever see.