Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Kelli Garner
Director: Alexandre Aja
“In the aftermath of his girlfriend’s mysterious death, a young man awakens to find strange horns sprouting from his forehead “(IMDb).
What to Expect
Could It Be…SATAN?!
Harry Potter has SEX
Why You Should Watch It
Everybody loves Daniel Radcliffe because we got to watch him grow up on screen. This man can get any role he wants, yet he seems to like more non-conventional ones. And I’m here for it. A corpse that farts for 3 straight minutes? Kimmy Schmidt’s dopey royal fiancé? A man turning into the devil? Yes. All of it. Please and thank you.
Besides watching Harry Potter take on a more mature role, Horns is a great examination on what makes a person good (or evil), and reads like some delightfully fun Twin Peaks fanfic: pretty white girl in a Pacific northwest logging town turns up dead and creepy surrealness ensues. (Fun fact: Heather Graham plays a diner waitress in both!)
Worth Checking Out (B)
Ig Perrish (Radcliffe) is the prime suspect in the murder of his girlfriend, Merrin (Temple). He is stalked by news stations and harassed by protesters all while trying to maintain his innocence and prepare for trial. After sleeping with Glenna (Garner), one of his childhood friends (notably, the only other person he’s ever slept with besides Merrin), Ig wakes up to find horn-like nubs growing out of his forehead. When he goes to talk to Glenna, she is acting strange and tells Ig she wants to devour a whole box of donuts, not even caring about his nubs.
Weirded out, Ig leaves, but soon discovers everyone who comes close to him acts out on dark desires: The doctor who tries to saw off his fast-growing horns has sex with his nurse instead, Ig’s mother confesses how much she hates him, and a bartender lights his own business on fire for the insurance money.
Ig learns to use his new powers to try and solve the mystery of Merrin’s murder, eventually discovering it was his own friend and ad hoc defense lawyer, Lee (Minghella). By now Ig has assumed more devilish characteristics, toting around a pitchfork and having a swarm of snakes at his command. After nearly dying in a fight with Lee, Ig comes back for the final showdown, assuming a fully demonic form and killing Lee with snakes.
Biblical and satanic references abound in Horns. The diner is called Eve’s and has a big red apple for the logo, Ig drives a (fiery red) AMC Gremlin, the band at the bar plays the song “The Devil Down Below,” there’s a tarot card with a devil on it in the box where Merrin hid her final letter to Ig, and Lee’s lost fingers make it so he’s always making devil horns on one hand.
Merrin’s cross is what “cures” Ig of his satanic condition, and also neutralizes Ig’s effects from Lee. We can also see Ig’s arm tattoo says, “Awake, arise, or be forever fall’n,” a line from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the story of Satan falling from Heaven.
There are several cars that reference bible passages as well. Ig’s Gremlin has the license plate “2036LUK.” Luke 20:36 reads, “and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.”
Ig’s brother, Terry (Anderson), has the license plate “GEN 138” on his car. Genesis 13:8 says, “So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives” (i.e., brothers).
Lee’s license plate is seen as “2017EXS,” for Exodus 20:17: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Ig and Merrin have opposing characteristics in Horns (just scroll back up to see them positioned like the yin/yang symbol). Merrin is painted as an angelic character: innocent, loved, dying in a virginal white dress. And even though Ig isn’t a bad guy, he’s hated by his entire town, and takes on demonic physical characteristics.
Even their names are opposites. Ig comes from Ignatius, meaning “fiery one.” And Merrin is a derivative of Mary, which, apart from the obvious nod to the mother of Jesus, also means, “Lady of the Sea.” (Although a couple sources in my research have noted that Merrin is in reference to Father Merrin from The Exorcist, I think having the main couples’ names roughly mean “fire” and “water” is too perfect to be an accident.)
Yet, even opposites can have their similarities. When Lee almost kills Ig the first time, he says, “Love made devils of us both.” And when Ig rips Merrin’s cross off himself to assume his diabolic persona one last time, he first sprouts angel wings, reminding the audience that Lucifer was no more than a fallen angel himself.
Horns was based on the eponymous novel written by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill. The movie doesn’t explain why or how Ig got his horns, but in the book, the horns and their abilities were bestowed upon Ig by a mystical treehouse that had two rules: “Take what you want while you’re here. Get what you need when you leave.” Ig and Merrin had found the treehouse once before in their younger years, but it had never appeared again until after Merrin’s death, when Ig needed to find her killer. While there is a treehouse in the film, it’s not magic, and the catalyst is implied to be the one-night stand he has with a woman he didn’t have feelings for (i.e., giving in to desire/sin).
For the most part, the movie stays faithful to the source material. Ig occasionally leans on his darker side, driven to fury out of incredible grief for his love—and frustration with being so vilified—yet in his heart he remains a good person. And this is the core of the overall concept in both works: that the devil isn’t something that’s pure evil; merely a good person who was wronged.