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The Weinstein Company
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/6/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/17/2014
It's not unusual for children to take over the family business. (Unfortunately, they are usually ne'er do well layabouts who simply want to take the money and have no interest in actually advancing the company.) When we think about this, we typically picture someone taking the reins of an established firm or business and hopefully continuing any previous success. How often does an offspring do something independently and yet still seem to be following the footsteps of their parents. That's exactly the case with author Joe Hill, who just happens to be the son of Stephen King. Just like Dad, Joe is a novelist who specializes in tales of the supernatural and Horns is the first movie based on one of his books. Does it have the same appeal as one of King's works?
Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) has become the town pariah. Everyone is convinced that he's responsible for the death of his longtime girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple). Ig maintains his innocence, although the details of that night are fuzzy. He's being supported by his parents -- Derrick (James Remar) and Lydia (Kathleen Quinlan) --, his brother, Terry (Joe Anderson), and his friend, Lee Tourneau (Max Minghella), who is also acting as his attorney. Merrin's father, Dale (David Morse), rallies the town against the young man. One morning, Ig wakes up to find horns growing out of his forehead. But, that's not the only weird thing -- Suddenly, everyone Ig encounters is compelled to tell him their darkest secrets. Ig realizes that he may be able to use this new power to find the real killer. But, it also means that he can retaliate against those who have wronged him.
I must report that I've never read any of Hill's books (My wife read Heart-Shaped Box and really liked it), but as an old-time Stephen King fan, I have scanned Hill's works. I remember reading the synopsis of Horns and thinking, "And?". So, I was interested in seeing the film to learn, as Paul Harvey would put it, "The rest of the story." I'm happy to report that Horns is more than just a one-note gimmick story. Sure, it's got a guy who sprouts horns which continue to grow, but it's much more than that. The fact that people begin to confess to Ig adds another layer to the story, as it explores human nature and how we hide our feelings. The movie also offers flashbacks to Ig's childhood which shows how his relationships with Merrin and Lee were formed. We also get flashbacks which show the night of Merrin's death.
Here's the thing with Horns -- It is way out there and it takes a lot of chances. Director Alexandre Aja is known for making confrontational films, and his style seems to blend perfectly with Hill's bizarre story. This is one of those movies where if you don't buy into the initial concept, none of the movie will work for you. Is it silly that Ig grows devil horns? Of course it is, but if you can get behind that, the rest of the movie will most likely click for you. If you can follow Ig's story straight through to the insane finale, you will find a film which actually offers a great deal of heart. But, Ig is also a challenging character. As noted above, Ig indulges in his power, as he learns that he can coax confessions out of people. So, at times we feel very sorry for him, but he also borders on being an anti-hero in some scenes.
As noted above, Joe Hill appears to have taken over the family business and if I'd gone into this movie with no prior knowledge, I would have thought that it had a "Stephen King vibe". While I understand some changes were made from the novel, including one which would have given away part of the ending, the story has all of the earmarks of a King novel, including flashbacks, a small-town setting, and lots of music references. And like some of King's work, Horns has a tendency to get bogged down in its own story, especially during the finale, which is, again, something to behold. There's nothing wrong with adding layers and details, but a tale needs to know when to get out of its own way.
Director Alexandre Aja has certainly had an interesting career in horror, which began with a rip-off of a Dean Koontz novel, followed by three remakes, and now an adaptation of a novel. While The Hills Have Eyes remains his most visceral film, Horns is his most accomplished. Aja has always had a good visual style (I like the fact that he's not afraid to have scary scenes which take place during the day) and here you can tell that he's really concentrating on the story. And yet, the fact that he's not afraid to push the envelope really helps to make Horns what it is, as I can see how some directors would have held back, resulting in a milquetoast affair. The fact that Horns is different and contains some odd ideas will alienate it from some viewers, but the daring will find something to like. Most notably Daniel Radcliffe's performance. As he continues to shed his Harry Potter past, Radcliffe once again shows that he isn't afraid to take chances. And you shouldn't be either, so give Horns a whirl.
Horns would have been fine without the jazz on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of The Weinstein Company. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 29 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably the reds and greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is excellent, as the actors are clearly separated from the backgrounds and there is a nice use of space in the film. The level of detail is good, as the image is never soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround effects are nicely done and the track shows off a good mix. The front and rear don't simply replicate one another and there is good separation here. The scenes in the rain really bring home the rear speaker effects. The subwoofer effects are also impressive, most notably during the finale.
The Horns Blu-ray Disc contains only one extra feature. "The Making of Horns" (19 minutes) contains a wealth of on-set footage and comments from the cast and the creative team, including Joe Hill (who looks just like his dad). We get an overview of the story and themes, an examination of the cast -- complete with comments from Radcliffe, Temple, and Minghella --, a brief discussion of the novel, a profile of Aja, and the make-up design of the horns. We get a lot of information here, but much of it is very surface and we don't learn things like where Hill got the idea for the story or what changes were made from the novel.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long