Pin It

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shelf Life: Horns by Joe Hill

Horns

GENRE: Character-driven horror

THE PITCH: On the anniversary of his childhood sweetheart's brutal slaying, grieving twentysomething Ig Perrish discovers two horns growing from his head, along with demonic abilities that may empower him to solve the murder.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?: Taken from the famed union organizer, "Joe Hill" is the pseudonym of Joseph Hillstrom King, who happens to be the son of horror novelist/publishing phenomenon Stephen King. Before you cry "Nepotism," relax: the guy's good.

FAMILY RESEMBLANCE: Ig's horns have the power to force people to admit their darkest impulses, occasionally in profanity-ridden speeches reminiscent of the dialogue of Stephen King's villains. Hill also raids his father's music collection for Horns' references to baby boomer rock songs, particularly tracks by the Rolling Stones. However, Hill defies the adage that talent skips a generation and probes his characters with more depth than Dad ever did.

FIT THE PROFILE: One of Horns' most powerful and disturbing sections presents the point of view of a character who turns out to be an utter sociopath. Hill provides a compelling portrait of abnormal psychology that avoids cliches -- although it must be said that the character's so creepy, it's hard to believe the people around him wouldn't have gotten wise to him.

SYMBOLIC VALUE: The title refers not only to the pointy new additions to Ig's cranium, but also to the fact that his father and brother are both successful trumpet players. Hill pours on the religious references pretty thick, though, including a gold crucifix necklace that provides a recurring plot point, as well as the fact that Ig's family lives in a town called "Gideon." Symbols become literal when Ig appropriates aspects of devilish iconography, which include communing with snakes and using a pitchfork as a weapon.

FIRST LINE: "Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things."

WORST LINE: "'EEEEEEEEEE,' Ig screamed."

LITERARY OVERREACH: In addition to some too-convenient twists at the end, Horns gives its lead characters a highly improbable teenage fascination with Morse Code. It reads like a contrivance to establish the young people as "quirky."

GORE FACTOR: Rather than draw attention with grisly violence, Hill avoids graphic descriptions of atrocities.

SOPHOMORE SLUMP?: Horns pales in comparison to Heart-Shaped Box, Hill's debut novel in which a retired rock star slightly reminiscent of Alice Cooper purchased a ghost over the Internet and finds himself plagued by a malicious presence that forces him to face his worst secrets.

GIVING THE DEVIL HIS DUE: Despite its flaws, Horns constructs a chilling, unpredictable narrative with intriguing ideas about guilt and temptation.  Horns never lacks for ideas or ambition and suggests that Hill will continue to be a writer worth following, no matter who is father is.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Latest in Fresh Loaf

More by Curt Holman

Rap Attack
Rap Attack

Search Events

Search Fresh Loaf

Recent Comments

  • Re: Fast food fight

    • @ Mark from Atlanta "Property tax rebates for xeriscaping." Why? If an owner has enough…

    • on May 3, 2015
  • Re: Fast food fight

    • "Mark, there is no perfect solution to this problem. Since you don't like my idea,…

    • on May 3, 2015
  • Re: Fast food fight

    • "Two problems with your suggestion: 1. The upper income folks will still be filling their…

    • on May 3, 2015
  • Re: We need to talk about HIV

    • I was been suffering hard ship from HIV/AIDS since 9yrs now, and i happen to…

    • on May 2, 2015
  • Re: Cut and run

    • YES!!! Thanks for pointing that out!!! I saw that in the print edition. A perfect…

    • on May 2, 2015
  • Re: Fast food fight

  • More »

© 2015 Creative Loafing Atlanta
Powered by Foundation