Considering how long it took to get director Alexandre Aja’s adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel Horns to audiences, you’d expect the film to be far more troublesome than it is. Having not read the novel, I can’t say whether the film was a complete success, but for what it is, it’s a better than average horror/comedy. Something audiences can finally judge for themselves with the film finally available on Blu-ray from Anchor Bay. Just a warning: like Hill’s father (Stephen King), it appears as though he’s going to need an even stronger director to bring his sordid tales to the big screen in the future. Surprisingly, Aja has a stronger grasp of drama than he’s known for (see: High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D), and with Daniel Radcliffe in the lead, at least he has an actor who can carry a film on his own.
In Horns, Radcliffe stars as Ig Perrish, who’s dealing with being accused of killing his long-time girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple). His parents (Kathleen Quinlan and James Remar) and brother Terry (Joe Anderson) are trying to deal with whether or not their son really committed the crime, while seemingly all of his childhood friends have turned against him. The only people giving Ig the true benefit of the doubt is his friend/lawyer Lee (Max Minghella), and the town-slut Glenna (Kelli Garner). It’s not until Ig wakes up with a pair of horns growing out of his temples that Ig’s life really takes a turn for the weird, as the townsfolk start admitting their deepest yearnings to him. Something that eventually comes mighty handy in Ig’s pursuit of the real killer.
Horns doesn’t quite strike a deal with the devil in the video department, but possesses a healthy presentation landing on a 50GB disc with only one special feature. Framed in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, detail is razor sharp for the most part, which comes in handy considering how much of the film takes place out in the woods, or in the rain. Colors are natural and contrast is spot on, even shadow detail is better than average with no crush in sight during the nighttime scenes. Banding or aliasing never rear their heads. The only anomaly comes right from the source as there are a few scenes that feel right out of an ‘80s movie where the top and bottom of the frame look slightly out of focus with the middle of the screen clear as a bell. Aside from that, this may not be a top-tier transfer, but it looks fantastic for a horror film.
Just as good as the video is the film’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Music is used to great effect with the score weaving throughout every speaker, creating an enveloping soundscape. Song selections may be blaring but never drown out the dialogue which helps considering the film is pretty heavy with it. The only special feature is “The Making of Horns” (18:48) covering the whole production. Everyone from director Aja to Radcliffe, to Hill and the rest of the cast and crew, everyone talks about how much a labor of love it was to bring the film to the big screen. Watching them wrangle the live snakes – the one around Radcliffe’s neck is even real! – shows how much they wanted some authenticity on set. And as if Hill wasn’t already a man after my own heart by being the son of King, but seeing him sporting an Amity Island shirt just makes me love him even more. And I haven’t even read any of his books yet!
As for the film itself, not everything works. It does have a tendency to feel like an everything but the kitchen sink affair, but aside from the careening tonal shifts, Aja keeps the intensity running for the full 2 hours. At least you’re never bored, something that even a scant 80 minutes can sometimes feel like an eternity when compared to something as atrocious as the recent Ouija. The love story works with Radcliffe performing admirably as a man literally facing his demons – along with everyone elses. The only thing that doesn’t completely work is the involvement of Merrin’s necklace that seems to have some kind of power of its own but is never explained even once in the film. But for anyone interested in seeking out Horns considering it’s almost direct-to-video release, the video/audio, and story, make it worth at least a rental for Radcliffe fans looking to see how he fares now that he’s not just “The Boy Who Lived.” Between this and What If, it was a great year for Radcliffe, making Horns an above average horror offering.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00P1WG6MS]