So, yet another Halloween has come and gone. Given the pseudo ghoulish trappings of this ‘holiday’, it seemed fitting that new cinematic viewings should lean more toward the Horror genre and this last weekend, my girlfriend and I actually saw 3 1/2 new genre offerings, in celebration of All Hallow’s Eve. The only one that, in my opinion, TRULY deserved a detailed ‘ramble’ was ‘Horns’ but, out of total respect for my good buddy and his fiance’ who threw up a fun little ‘horror movies, beer n junk food’ hang-out session at their humble abode Friday night, I’ll give a quick rundown on the other new flicks we took in:
It’s as ridiculous as it sounds…but it’s also strangely clever. Some effort seems to have gone into crafting a mocking, self-aware horror / satire that made ample use of the cliche’s, while also turning a couple of them on their heads, interestingly enough. There’s good-looking, gratuitously skin-bearing women, open ‘shout-outs’ to classic genre fare (‘Die Hard’, ‘Aliens’ etc), a surprisingly amount of ‘laugh-out-loud’ dialogue and gore, and the scariest swarm of muthafuckin Zombeavers I’ve ever seen! It was the perfect movie for the situation…which was a group of friends chillin with some bevvies and our home-girl Mary Jane, just itching to take the piss out of a movie that wasn’t afraid to laugh at its own core ridiculousness…and let us in on the joke, while it was at it.
I had NO idea what to expect with THIS one. I knew that it was the low-key, genre project that book-ended Wesley Snipes’ stint as a Guest of the Federal Government for Tax Evasion, in the late 2000’s. He should’ve just gone to the pokie for THIS pile of shit instead. Do you remember WAY back?….when I mentioned that 3 1/2 new movies were watched this weekend? Yea…THIS is the 1/2. I saw what this ‘movie’ was ultimately going for (basically, ‘Blade’ in the post-apocalypse Old West(?)), but it failed every step of the way. It was kinda weird, actually. SOMEHOW, ‘they’ were JUST ‘off’ in every little aspect…the potential for ‘really cool shit’ was there, but they didn’t seem to know how to effectively tap into it. It felt like (attempted) over-styling, with weak ‘edgy’ content, and script and editing choices that were nonsensical and stupid. Plot-wise, we were lost from the get-go, and no…the drinks n such didn’t fuel the confusion…the idiotic and clumsy movie did that just fine. It finally got to a point where, without any prior consultation among our numbers, the whole room, almost literally, threw up our hands in collective ‘Fuck you, Terrible Movie’ness. We were done! ‘Gallowwalkers’, at least the good chunk that we saw…sucks on every level. Avoid.
Friday the 13th (2009)
Not…terrible. As ‘slasher’ franchises go, the ‘Friday the 13th’ series ISN’T my first pick (‘Freddy Krueger’ will trump ‘Jason Voorhees’ EVERY time!), so when this Michael Bay-produced remake popped up in ’09, I didn’t pay too much attention. I’ve heard mixed opinions about this one since it’s release though, so when it came up as a ‘what do we watch next?’ option, I thought it seemed like a perfect choice. In the end, and for what it was…it was solid. It had everything that a ‘Friday the 13th’ flick should have: stupid and attractive ‘young people’/victims, a sinister setting, and ‘Jason’ doing what ‘Jason’ does, only faster and to expectedly gory effect. It all worked…as long as you didn’t expect it to be the ‘Citizen Kane’ of Slasher Flicks. Strangely enough, my biggest complaint was the casting of Jared Padalecki as the Main Protagonist ‘Clay’. My girlfriend and I are huge ‘Supernatural’ fans and I will ALWAYS associate Jensen Ackles (‘My Bloody Valentine’) and Padalecki with the characters of ‘Dean’ and ‘Sam Winchester’. So, whenever he was onscreen here, I couldn’t help but to picture this flick actually being a ‘Supernatural’ episode where ‘Sam’ is handling a ‘hunt’ on his own…at Camp Crystal Lake! The Bottom Line is this…this IS a decently-budgeted Friday the 13th movie. Nothing more…nothing less. Aside from the whole ‘why the hell would ‘Jason’ kidnap a chick when he’s a near-invincible killing machine who historically butchers EVERYBODY he encounters?!’ bit. That aside, for a Halloween movie…it worked.
The next night was Halloween. After carving up some truly terrifying jack o lanterns and imbibing…my lady and I chose to FINALLY watch ‘Horns’… while the world outside sounded like war-torn Syria, on a bad day.
When this flick hit the scene, I’ll admit that I was intrigued. The premise and the visuals looked potentially ridiculous, but lately I’ve had faith in Daniel Radcliffe’s post-Harry Potter script choices. The guy has talent and conviction, and always seems to be on the look-out for fresh acting challenges. So I felt that there HAD to be something more to the weird concept, which is…
…the story of ‘Ig Perrish’ (Radcliffe), after he’s been accused of the rock-to-the-head murder of his long-time girlfriend ‘Merrin’ (Juno Temple). The whole world believes he’s the culprit and, as he becomes more frustrated and anxious about a possible impending case of ‘Life Imprisonment Despite Being Innocent’, his entire existence threatens to spiral away. After drunkenly desecrating the site of ‘Merrin’s murder one night, he wakes up the next morning with horns growing from his forehead. Actual devil’s horns. It soon becomes apparent that these horns have the power to entice those in close proximity to ‘Iggy’ to spill their darkest, nastiest secrets, and to then follow his orders or suggestions, sometimes to violent and / or hilarious effect. Using this new-found ability / curse, ‘Ig’ then sets out to unmask the killer hidden in the small ocean-side Washington State community he calls home. What he finds changes everything he knew about his world.
This was a good flick. It surprised me how ‘taken’ I was with the story (originally a novel by Stephen King’s son Joe Hill) and the solid presentation, and in particular, Daniel Radcliffe’s portrayal of ‘Ig’. I’ve never heard him adopt a flat-out North American accent before, but he pulled it off like a champ! It further removed him from his ‘Harry Potter’ legacy, and really went the distance to make him ‘Iggy’. It was doubly cool that ‘Ig’ wasn’t a purely sympathetic ‘hero’. There were some good scenes where he was an undeniable asshole, and tough to root for. But then something would bring his damaged ‘humanity’ back to the surface…and I was back on his side. I also liked how his romance with the doomed ‘Merrin’ was seen through his eyes (and flashbacks), and I ‘felt’ it. Which made his ‘fall’ all the more compelling, given that he discovers just how much of his life was not what it seems. But Radcliffe wasn’t the only noteworthy ‘name’ in the cast who brought his A-game. Juno Temple (‘Killer Joe’), who I’ve never been sure of, worked well as the childhood crush / Love of ‘Ig’s Life, ‘Merrin’. She was another character that I went back and forth on effectively, where her motivations and personality were concerned. We also get James Remar (‘The Cotton Club’), Kathleen Quinlan (‘Apollo 13’), Heather Graham (‘Boogie Nights’) and David Morse (‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’), among others, and they all help bring this twisted tale to satisfying life.
When it comes to the work of director Alexandre Aja (‘Pirahna 3D’), I’ve enjoyed some (‘Mirrors’ (2008), ‘Pirahna 3D’ (2010)), and despised others (‘High Tension’ (2003), ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ (2006)). I know the man has technical prowess, but he also has a tendency to ‘cross the line’, in an ‘Eli Roth’-kinda way. So THIS story, under his direction, made me curious. In the end, “Good job, Aja!” His direction not only brought the small-town characters together, but it also gave the small town itself a ‘character’. The whole rural setting perfectly off-set the fucked-up’dness of the narrative, and there’s some really nice cinematography on display (most of which was showcasing the Vancouver, BC area). The editing and pacing of the story were also efficient and disciplined, and the movie never felt like it was overstaying it’s welcome. I was onboard (and curious) for the whole 120 minute run-time.
All in all, ‘Horns’ was better than I was expecting, and is now a title that for a good price, I would add to my collection with little hesitation. Daniel Radcliffe, backed by a dedicated cast, was great as the tortured ‘Ig’, the idea was refreshingly absurd but handled with enough ‘teeth’ to be engaging, the film had ample style and character, there was a solid dose of dark humor throughout and, at the heart of it, there was an effective but heartbreaking love story. I can easily recommend this movie, especially to people looking for something a little different in their genre choices, and to curious fans of Daniel Radcliffe The Actor. I found him to be a joy to watch here, inhabiting the skin of this flawed character, as he brought a certain tragic ‘gravity’ to the, at times, darkly sordid story. Give ‘Horns’ a shot!
“Well, one thing I’ll say in my favor…I am fucking hard to kill.”