A Pointed Assessment: Reviewing Horns


My friend and I have recently started a two-person book club that includes only books that have been adapted to the big screen as well. We read the book first and then watch the movie together, discussing both afterwards. Our first book in this club was Joe Hill’s Horns. This was my introduction to Joe Hill (his real name is Joseph Hillstrom King), a brilliant author in his own right but also the son of Stephen King, and I was not disappointed. I’m not a big horror genre fan. Sure, I like the occasional movie like You’re Next or The Cabin in the Woods, but I do not like to read horror books. I’m thinking this has more to do with the fact that movies are usually two hours or less while books take considerably more time to read. I can be in and out of whatever horrific storyline is within a movie, while I feel as if I’m living it with a book. I also tend to cry more when reading than when watching movies. There’s something about the connection with a book as opposed to a movie. But I digress. Perhaps the fact that Horns is contained within the horror category yet is also a crime story and a romance story helped dull my pain of the horror genre.

We originally picked out this book because of the movie. The movie stars Daniel Radcliffe and is a definite break from anything Harry Potter. (For another great Radcliffe movie, watch What If.) Because we wanted to watch the movie, we decided to read the book first. I’m so glad we did. The book Horns is an awesome book. It’s about a guy named Ignatius (Iggy or Ig) who is suspected of his girlfriend Merrin’s murder from a year ago. Because of lack of physical evidence, he has not been convicted yet. He wakes up one morning with a pair of devil-like horns protruding from his forehead. He finds that people can see the horns but cannot remember that he has them once they look away. Instead of acting afraid or perplexed by the horns, everyone he comes in contact with begins to reveal their darkest desires and thoughts. These desires become movie-quality when he has skin-to-skin contact with a person. After revealing their secrets and desires, people ask Ig for his permission to act on these, giving him the power to manipulate people if he so chooses. From this premise, the story takes some interesting turns. There is even the past love story between his departed girlfriend and himself that feels genuine and true but is intertwined with the here and now of Ig’s horrific existence.

The thing that makes this story great besides the intelligent plot and writing and the unique story is that this book delves into the question of morality. What would you do if you had the power to know people’s darkest secrets? What would you do if you could manipulate people to act on these? Would anyone have the strength to not use this new-found talent? Would this be a gift or a curse? Are humans innately good or evil? Is the pull of the devil stronger than the pull of God? So many different topics are brought up seamlessly in this book, and while you can just enjoy the story, you can also ponder the depth of the story. Again, such a good book!

“Maybe all the schemes of the devil were nothing compared to what men could think up.”

The movie, however, left much to be desired. The casting was all wrong except for Ig and Merrin. They switched the physical attributes of Lee and Terry (like the characters of Murphy and Susan in the TV series The Dresden Files based off of Jim Butcher’s series). I hate when this happens because there is then more of a disconnect between what I envisioned in my head while reading and what I then see in the movie or TV show. The tone of the movie doesn’t fit with the book, and the director Alexandre Aja appeared to be more interested in spectacle rather than translating the meaning and nuances contained within the book. The ending is also completely different than the book and misses the mark. Perhaps the movie would have been more appealing had I never read the book. It’s a bit of an either/or situation, not a both situation. The only redeeming quality of this movie is Radcliffe’s stellar performance that shows he is much more than a boy with a lightning scar. However, the director didn’t seem to really appreciate Radcliffe’s talents to the detriment of the movie.

So what do I recommend? The book of course. I would say 9 times out of 10 the book will always be better, and Horns is definitely no exception. It’s worth a read, but don’t expect miracles while watching the movie. 😉 Now I’m off to read Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.

“’Only the devil loves humans for what they are and rejoices in their cunning schemes against themselves, their shameless curiosity, their lack of self-control, their impulse to break a rule as soon as they hear tell of it, their willingness to forsake their immortal soul for nookie. The devil knows that only those with the courage to risk their soul for love are entitled to have a soul, even if God does not.’”

“Him and God are supposed to be at war with each other. But if God hates sin and Satan punishes the sinners, aren’t they working the same side of the street? Aren’t the judge and the executioner on the same team?”

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