“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”—Saint Augustine
Life is rough most of the times. Work, family, financial, social, and worldly stress is everywhere. It can get hard out there for the little guy who honestly just yearns for a fair shake in this dog eat dog world. Coping with stress is a stressor all within itself. Our response to stress, torment, and dealing with grief is very personal to each of us. Although we think stress solely as a mental condition; it can cause serious physical ailments. The physical long term effects of stress go far beyond the rumored 7% (slightly lower in the 90210 zip code) of our brain we use to comprehend the evil of this constant monkey on our back. In fact, most physical ailments and sickness are brought on due to the inability of tackling stress every day in a healthy way. These side effects can morph into physical manifestations of the inner torment that we put ourselves through. Welcome to the SYMBOLISM (thank you William Dafoe for teaching me to annunciate when stress is needed) that our next film nicely explores with us.
Horns (2013) is dark fantasy whodunit directed by Alexandre Aja of Haute Tension (2003) and loosely based on a novel by Stephen King’s scribe of a son, Bram Stoker Award nominated Joe Hill (the boy in the beginning of Creepshow (1983) that gets slapped for looking at horror comics). Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame is all grown up now and stars as Iggy Perrish, a normal twenty something who drives a Gremlin (my first car was a Pinto, yes the one with the gas tank that would blow upon impact) and wears a yellow hoodie (my favorite hoodie is gray) with a maroon shirt that subtly references his team colors from Gryffindor. Iggy (my first cat as a kid—meow) is a man accused and the prime suspect in the rape and murder of his longtime girlfriend Merrin (a nod to Father Merrin of The Exorcist), Juno Temple of The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and uses his newly discovered dark paranormal abilities to uncover the real killer.
A year after that deadly night, Iggy is still shunned and suspected by his local community and continues to tirelessly fight to clear his name to retain his innocence. His only ally, childhood best friend Lee, Max Minghella of The Internship (2013), is the only one that “appears” to stand by Iggy through his time of trial and tribulations. With the town and community against our pal Iggy, he does what I guess any struggling soul would do under extreme pressure by partaking in a few cocktails and a one night stand romp to blow off some steam. Iggy wakes the next morning after the decadent night of debauchery with a hellish hangover and… a pair of horns protruding from his nugget (sans the Sorting Hat). He soon discovers the horns have possessed him with a dark Jedi like power to force people into revealing their darkest inner-desires to him while seeking his permission to fulfill their temptations.
With his new power (“With great power comes great responsibility”—thanks Uncle Ben), Iggy starts his own investigation to find the truth. Testing everyone from parents, friends, to a funny scene with cops in a patrol car, no one is safe from the new Iggy. On his quest for justice and vengeance, Iggy discovers snakes following him when he travels and enlists them for his bidding that are reminiscent of a young Harry Potter talking to the snake, except this time he is acting like a full-fledged card carrying member of the house of Slythern.
Horns is an interesting character study that examines the effects of love loss and the detrimental state one’s soul transitions through when revenge and anger consumes all. The mise-en-scène is superb and helps articulate the vulnerability and emotion of our protagonist during his journey. Throughout Horns, if you pay close attention to set decoration and props, the keen eye shall spot references to the Bible and Twin Peaks (1990) throughout its 120 min runtime. The soundtrack does feature Heroes by David Bowie; this song was also featured in The Perks to Being a Wallflower (2012) who starred Emma Watson. Yes, (sigh) she was in Harry Potter too. On a good note, Hollywood’s misguided son, Shia LaBeouf of Transformers (2007), was set to play the lead and replaced…the studio execs must have finally read my letters.
So if you want a visually interesting and well-paced horror drama for this evening, give this little feature a view. Be safe out there, take care of each other and remember the following two tidbits of advice I’m about to share with you on surviving in this world. First, “If you don’t want them to get your goat, tie your goat up in a different spot each day.” Second, a great educator once taught me this in Saturday morning detention, “Don’t mess with the bull, young man…you’ll get the horns.”