Book Vs Movie: "Horns"

This month Jayson and I take a trip to the 'Tree House of the Mind' to investigate which Horns is better; the original from Joe Hill or the 2013 film adaptation by Alexandre Aja. 

 

 


Plot

CC : The plot of Hill’s book revolves around the main character Ig reeling from the death of his girlfriend and dealing with the repercussions of being the main suspect in her murder. Though it is sometime after her death, Ig is still haunted by the mystery of what happened and wakes up one morning to find that he has grown horns – these horns are invisible to everyone except Ig and they tend to make people divulge their deepest sins to him, seemingly unprovoked. Seeing this as a blessing in disguise, he uses this ability to find his girlfriend’s murderer. Alexandre Aja’s film follows the plot established by the book pretty closely. Suffering only from the inability to include everything, I think the movie does the book justice to the book as well as any interpretation can. However, with the ability to include some nuanced motivations and directions of characters, the book prevails.

Jayson: They made a strange decision in the movie that I suspect was to create a greater sense of urgency but shifts the plot significantly in my mind. In the book it’s been enough time that it is clear that Ig is not going to be convicted and he has gotten off on a technicality, while in the movie it seems like he is still in trial and might be convicted leaving the possibility for him to get his “comeuppance” in his detractor’s eyes. This might seem like a minute detail, however one of the pressing factors is Ig living in the aftermath of Merrin’s murder and the world believing him guilty when he is off free. That slow pressure cooker is what causes him to degrade and his friends and family to begin to lose faith in him. This is in part impactful because the plot of Horns the book is about loss of faith, belief in love and the better nature of man internally rather than the external gestures of the devout. None of that really comes through as well in the immediate.

CC’s Verdict: Book

Jayson’s Verdict: Book


Characters

CC: Joe Hill creates very interesting and magnetic characters, and for his to be his sophomore book, it’s impressive. Ig’s complexities immediately lend themselves to the audience’s empathy and that drives the book. Though Merrin’s character is developed through the memories of Ig and their mutual friend Lee Tourneau, her existence drives both of them. The book trio of Ig, Merrin and Lee is really interesting to watch as it devolves, years of close friendship frayed and ruined. I will be one of the firsts to admit that I wasn’t sure about Danielle Radcliff as Ig, but I stand much corrected. His performace as Ig is almost as genuine and heartsick as you feel his character is in the book. Juno Temple as Merrin was also a very smart and believable choice, but much like the film’s issue with plot – She’s just not as developed or detailed as her book character. I think my only disappointment with the film was its Lee character. Not only was the casting of Max Minghella a strange choice in my opinion, but his Lee was seemingly flat and void of the unabashed sociopathy that the book Lee has. The movie didn’t seem to distinguish the intense good guy/bad guy dichotomy between Lee and Ig that the book did, and Max and Daniel had very little chemistry for two individuals who had grown up as childhood friends.

Jayson: I totally agree with CC on the Ig character, minus a very important detail. However, a large part that is cut from the film that the character requires is that he starts as a child to young adult being religious. He believes in the traditional trappings of religious morality. This is an important detail glossed over and ultimately misses the context of the story. That being said Daniel Radcliff does a very nice job of endowing the character with all the moral complexity and uncertainty he deserves. Merrin and Lee is where I’m going to be a little harsher. I think the boat is completely missed with these characters. To me it isn’t just a missing of details due to time that hurts Merrin’s character, she is sucked dry of any agency. In the book, even though she is dead she is the driving force behind Ig. It’s what keeps him going and his engine. In the movie she is placed on a pedestal as a beautiful woman that he sees mostly as some apparition of love. The growth for Ig in the book is his disillusionment both in terms of how he views women and the world and his friends. Merrin in the movie is simply too pure and Lee is just too simple.

CC’s Verdict: Book

Jayson’s Verdict: Book


Theme

CC: I really enjoyed the multiple themes throughout Hill’s book. The good vs evil, man vs devil, love prevailing over all, the pains of youth and growing up, revenge and the complexity of friendship are all really explored throughout the book without ever feeling too forced or overbearing. I think it’s a testament to Hill’s character development, especially in Ig, that makes these themes seem fluid and natural throughout his book. I think the movie does a decent job of echoing the themes put forth by the book, but some of them end up feeling flat or underdeveloped. The lack of chemistry between Ig and Lee in the film influences that a lot in my opinion.

Jayson: I really like Alexandra Aja as a director, he’s great at action and tension and creating fun films. I believe that this is the wrong material for him. This is material that requires a lot of nuance to make it work because you are operating in shades of gray from a morality and intellectual standpoint that he simply isn’t capable of handling in an artistic way. Joe Horn does a magnificent job of this in the book. Taking something that starts pretty juvenile and slowly molding it into a morality tale that satisfies both the emotional and intellectual needs of the reader. We get the sociopath working in a political office who struggles with friendship and human emotion as a villain in the book and a one off line about a doctor sawing off a horn who would probably screw the nurse instead. In the movie we get a three minute scene showing it and a bland jealous pretty boy in the film.

CC’s Verdict: Book

Jayson’s Verdict: Book


Tone

CC: The tone of the book is palpable throughout. From the dreaminess of Ig and Merrin’s youthful relationship to the stark hopelessness and melancholy gloom, as a reader you’re really buckled in and taken for this emotional rollercoaster of a trip. In the movie, I think a lot of the tone is mirrored, but exactly that – more of a reflection of the actual emotion behind the characters in the source material.

Jayson: To me the book really knocks it out of the park. It really puts you into a world where dark humor can take foot and frees you to play with in a reality where morality starts to slip and dark becomes light and vice versa. It’s playful, gloomy, sexy and scary

CC’s Verdict: Book

Jayson’s Verdict: Book


Overall

CC: When I read this book – I consumed it. I think I read thru it in an afternoon one day and just fully into it. I really enjoyed every aspect of the story and this world that Joe Hill created. I know the above seems like the movie failed in a lot of ways in its interpretation – but that’s not necessarily true. I just think that if the movie could have been 3 or 4 hours, it would have been able to represent the book a little truer. I think the movie was great and I really enjoyed it as a film based on a book. Even after a repeat viewing, I think it stands up as something new and fresh; I just felt a bit more emotionally attached to the book.  Fully recommend both reading and seeing them, respectfully.

Jayson: Whelp. It’s a unanimous knockout. Read the book. I don’t like it as much as CC but it’s a very good read and if you don’t, I personally don’t see a reason to watch the movie. Everything it does well the book does plus some. It’s fine for a hangover film, or to have on in the background, it simply under bakes some solid the more interesting source material.

CC’s Verdict: Book

Jayson’s Verdict: Book

CC

Associate Editor/Horror Literature/Podcast Guest

CC is the High Priestess of BGH. She's into creeping around in the shadows and loves animals, but especially baby bats and puppies.

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