A movie adaptation shouldn't be judged by the quality of its source material. It's impossible to avoid, though, especially when the material is so admirable. The adaptation of Joe Hill's legitimately insane Horns suffers in the typical three-act screenplay form. Whereas the novel opens with a guy who wakes up with devil horns, the film gives us a typical movie opening, putting off the horns for just a little too long. And the reason he gets the horns in the first place—the violent desecration of a memorial, if my memory serves me correctly—hardly appears in the film version at all. My girlfriend asked me, "Why does he have horns?" Then I realized the movie is a better companion to the book than a standalone feature. Maybe judging it by the book is excusable in this case.
That's the bad. The rest is quite good actually, at least when it's not trying to play it too safe. Sometimes it feels the filmmakers pussyfoot around the demonic aspects of the story, which kind of misses the point. Otherwise, there is plenty of snake-charming, plenty of startling confessions from seemingly normal people. To call this horror is misleading. Dark urban fantasy is a better label.
The plot: Ig Perrish is a twenty-something whose childhood girlfriend has been murdered. Everyone thinks he's the killer, including his parents. One day after a hard night of drinking, he wakes up to find devil horns have sprouted from his temples. The horns have an effect on people. Nobody seems to think the horns are out of the ordinary and they feel compelled to tell Ig their darkest secrets. Heather Graham's character, a waitress, confesses she's telling the cops lies because she wants to be on TV. A bartender tells Ig he wants to burn his establishment down for the insurance money and Ig tells him to do it. He does, laughing hysterically. The confessions are the funniest parts of the movie.
I'm happy to report Daniel Radcliffe doesn't suffer from the same fate as most former child actors. Whenever I look at Fred Savage or Elijah Wood, I still see them as children. But when I see Daniel Radcliff, I see an adult, which is good. He makes a good Ig Perrish. The rest of the cast is just as good. I particularly liked Juno Temple (I usually do) as his girlfriend, Heather Graham, David Morse, and the casting of Ig's parents: James Remar and Kathleen Quinlan, two generally underused actors.
It's a good picture, just a little rough in spots. Also, I'm not sure it's quite worth $10.99, but I hope it does well when it hits theaters.