Book review: Horns, by Joe Hill; Movie review: Horns staring Daniel Radcliffe

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At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge. . . . It’s time the devil had his due. . .

I am going to combine my reviews and will mostly be comparing the book and the film.

I saw the movie more than a year ago because I was able to sign up to be in a test audience. I haven’t seen the finished version that was released this fall and am relying on my memory. I’ll eventually see the version that was released.

I finished the book a few days ago, and I can definitely say it’s better than the film. (Sometimes I tend to favor the version I saw or read first. This was not the case. Though, I did picture Daniel and Juno when I read the book.) There were changes and omissions made for the film that I felt made it a different story.

I would rate the film 3 out of 5 Horns, and the novel 5 out 5 Horns.

To go into more detail and be on the safe side I’ll put all the spoilers below.

Book: I really enjoyed the humor and references to devilish phrases and pop-culture. “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones is one that comes to mind and I loved that one of the sections was titled “The Gospel According to Mick and Keith.” I also got a kick out of the nod to the Motown song, “Devil with a Blue Dress On.” The only one missing was “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, but the story didn’t take place in Georgia.

Movie: I really wish we got to see Daniel wearing a blue dress in the film.

Book: I loved the supernatural and mystical element that was The Tree House of the Mind. How freaky that the proprietor was L. Morningstar. It all tied it together and the climatic confrontation that jumps back and forth between the present and the past was so well done. (The different POV flashbacks did a good job of developing the characters and their relationships.)

Movie: Remembering back to the film it was a disservice to the story to omit the mystical aspect of the tree house. It was just and ordinary tree house and that takes away the explanation of Ig’s curse/infliction. Not to mention that although it has brief appearances in the book, The Tree House of the Mind is still a character of its own.

Movie: At first when Ig talked to people, and they would reveal or act their deepest darkest secrets, I thought the story would go through the 7 deadly sins. I realized when I read the book that the characters were just confessing to their own personal demon.

It freaked me out. I wouldn’t want to reveal my darkest thoughts. Well, I’ll admit this one. Lee Tourneau should be dip in acid and set on fire. His death in the film and the book were both too quick, and not painful enough, for what he really deserved.

Lee reminded me of Alec D’Urberville. Puts the blame on the woman, saying she led him on, when really he’s just a sociopath who sees what he wants to see. And just like Alec D’Urberville, Lee “sees the light”, preaches about how he was a sinner and comes off as good community leader, but he is really a snake.

Speaking of snakes…
Movie: I could not help thinking of Harry Potter speaking Parseltongue when Ig had a snake wrapped around him.

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Book: After reading the chapter with Ig’s philosophical sermon to the snakes, I felt that also should have been in the film.

Back to Lee, he was miscast. Not only because the look of the character is a complete 180 degrees, but I didn’t get the same sense of hate for the movie character as I did in the book. Sorry, Max Minghella.

Also, and I suspect this was done for budget reasons, Lee’s injury was changed from a damaged eye to a missing finger. There was such great symbolism in the book about Lee’s damaged eye and how it was like looking at the real monster within.

Book: My one critique is it seemed unrealistic that Ig’s family does not give him the benefit of the doubt. How can his own parents think he is capable of such a horrific crime?

Movie: I will end on a positive commentary about the film. I liked the addition of the reporters. Their scenes were funny and I loved when Ig told them “How about you guys beat the shit out of each other and the winner gets an exclusive interview with me?” Daniel gave a great performance and carried the film really well.
Also, the soundtrack was awesome. I hope they kept the same songs I heard during the test screening. Music playing a key role in the movie and the book, my sister (who read the book before we saw the test screening) once told me “Let Me Sign” fits in with the story. Read the lyrics and you’ll agree.

Memorable Book Quotes: (Pages from nook edition)
p. 37 Ig wasn’t interested in mastering an instrument. He was interested in Merrin. Once he was in love with her, he didn’t need his family’s horns anymore. (Ironic that he grows a different set of horns.)

p. 98 It bewildered Ig, the idea that a person could not be interested in music. It was like not being interested in happiness.

p. 114 (about music) that it was the third rail of life. You grabbed it to shock yourself out of the dull drag of hours, to feel something, to burn with all the emotions you didn’t get to experience in the ordinary run of school and TV and loading the dishwasher after dinner.

p. 163 Symbolic imagery: The lamp started to swing, and his horned shadow plunged toward the waitress and then shrank away from her, toward and away.

p. 169 (About his splitting image on screen) It was like watching his own soul trying to pry itself from the demon to which it was anchored.
I felt this imagery mirrored Lee’s good eye and the bad one. Looking into the good eye was the lie. Looking into the bad one was who he really was.

p.391 When you think about it, most of the good ideas came along to make sin a whole lot easier. 

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