Harper Watched: Horns

Harper Watched is a recurring feature on the blog where I review movies and sometimes TV series or webshows. Today I'm talking about a horror-fantasy based on a novel by the same name, Horns.

(c/o Radius Two Dimension Films)
I wanted to watch this movie because it stars Daniel Radcliffe, whom I love not only for being a part of the massive chunk of childhood that is Harry Potter, but because he is a great actor, a funny guy, and an unproblematic fave-- he's always standing up for everyone's rights as people whenever he gets the chance, using his privileged status as a white male who dates women to talk about issues of homophobia, sexism, etc. in a productive way. What a classy guy.

I also thought that the premise was really interesting, and I'm the kind of gal who really loves dark stories with backing in any kind of grand mythologies. Judeochristian lore serves as a backbone to this horror fantasy, but it's more about a smaller struggle than a massive apocalyptic one. But before I get into all that, let's have a look at the trailer.



The Plot

Ig Perrish is accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend-since-childhood, Merrin Williams. He is the prime suspect in the case, and his entire small town community turns against him. Even his family has an extremely pessimistic outlook on the situation. No one believes he is innocent except Lee, a childhood friend and currently Ig's lawyer, meanwhile Ig is trying to figure out who really killed Merrin. 

Drunk and angry, he apparently invokes the wrath of God by some combination of pissing on the candles left at the site of Merrin's death and sleeping with another childhood friend, Glenna. The next morning, the horns begin to appear. 

The horns, seemingly a manifestation of the devil in Ig, come with some powers. First, people can see the horns but are for some reason not terribly surprised by them. Second, people around Ig start to reveal the nastiest truths within them. Third, people become highly suggestible around him should he encourage them to do something awful. Fourth, snakes start following him around. And all of this seems to serve as more indication that Ig is as evil as he appears to be, having killed a town darling.

He goes off on a mission to clear his name and to seek vengeance on whoever killed the love of his life. There are a lot of flashbacks through the night of her death, their childhood, and their life together, before she died.

The film is part horror, part murder mystery, part revenge story. It's very dark.

Getting Down to Business

First off, I'd like to put a trigger warning for anyone who is deeply disturbed by images of rape. It really turned my stomach to watch, and I know others would have taken it much much worse than I did.

This is a revenge-horror movie so if scenes of torture, gore, violence, etc. really mess you up, this is your warning that those things are present in this movie. If you're the type that can read it better than you can actually see it, maybe read the book first before you consider watching the movie.

Okay, now that all that goodness is out of the way, let's talk about what I thought of the movie.



In general, I liked it. At times, I wanted to throw up because of how despicable some of the acts in this movie were. That's the point though, and the film does a great job of exploring depravity, jealousy, and other really messed up things that exist within human nature. I liked how it contemplated what made people good or evil, and whether or not knowing that darkness in someone else changed who they were. I liked the darkness in this movie and found it to be pretty artfully done. It's pretty graphic though, so if you're not into that, avoid it or just read the book.

This movie has a really dark sense of humor to it. I've seen some film blogs call it a black comedy, and it's really not a comedy, so don't go into it expecting one. It's honestly a little annoying to me that any movie with a few jokes in it or with a sense of humor is deemed a comedy. That's as idiotic as calling any movie with a romantic subplot a romance. (Imagine, "Ratatouille, a romantic Disney Pixar movie"-- as if.) It is most definitely a satire, however, and it aims to raise a lot of questions about good and evil, and what darkness lies in the depths of every person.

Daniel Radcliffe is totally amazing in this movie. He's very raw, very emotional, and the character and situation give him a wide range of things to work with. There's a lot of genre-bias in the world of film that makes it so performances in horror and even at times fantasy (if it's not mainstream) is deemed lesser due to the unreal nature of the genres, but seriously, Dan totally killed it in this movie. There are so many layer to this character. This is the story, half about solving this girl's murder and seeking vengeance (which is the only kind of justice available), and half about the internal struggle within Ig and everyone around him, made more tangible and visible by the powers of the horns. Dan is raw and honest and horrifying and vulnerable and sarcastic and scared. He matches terrified with terrifying. It's really fantastic to watch.

The special effects are decent but not awesome. The visual direction does a lot of great things for the storytelling, but once CG gets involved, you either buy it or you don't. I'd put it about on par with say, Warm Bodies.

One of the things I really dig about this story is that it's about a really small-scale struggle rather than an apocalyptic one. The religious mythology that plays into this movie is usually done on a really grand scale, and while that's all well and good, I think we need more stories that play on these parables and sacred texts on smaller scales. The end-of-days stories, the angels-vs-demons tales, etc. are usually about all earth-- but I think it speaks truer of most people's experience to deliver stories that play one how these mythologies play into the lives of individuals and those around them. I'm not a religious person, but I usually see more merit in that sort of thing since I would rather see someone struggle through their life and see the religious figures' and values' impact on their own story than have them caught up in some massive divine plot. And that just might be me, speaking as a highly character and plot driven person who has a really hard time getting behind epics. (It's why I never got into Lord of the Rings.) I like the internal struggle and growth and the freedom you get to really explore what's happening to individual characters when their issues aren't dwarfed by some massive divine event or struggle.

Horns does not have a happy ending, but I'll say that it is a satisfying one. The film ends with the mystery of Merrin's death solved, and a promise that Ig and Merrin would be together again in the afterlife. Vengeance has been wrought. Damage has been done. The pieces are left to be picked up, but at least we know where they lay and how they got there. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's probably exactly what some people are looking for.

Harper's Rating: 4/5

Pros:
Dan Radcliffe is absolutely amazing
Dark sense of humor
Visually gorgeous and terrifying and graphic
Religious mythos in a horror fantasy
Mystery is well-done
Flashbacks tie story together well
Scaled-down Heaven/Hell story makes me really happy
Exploration of the darkness in everyone
True love probably/maybe?
Cons:
Rape scene-- never easy to watch, this is no exception. I wish they'd just implied it, but I get what they were trying to do: expose the terribleness of it all
Potentially cheesy CG
Gore-- not a lot, but enough to make you squirm
If you watch The Mindy Project, you will have a hard time not seeing Lee as Danny Castellano's gay brother (I know I did)


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Weekend Links 02.28.2015


This week has been a time for coping with the aftermath of a snow day. My classes are recalibrating their schedules and I'm trying to start getting ahead.

She read only books written by people of color for a year. This is what she learned.



Poem of the week: "Tell Me Again How You Don't See Color" - Marshall Gillson


These ladies got stuck at SFO airport for an extended period of time and decided to dance it out.

This cosmetics line is cruelty free, swatched on different skin tones (POC REJOICE) and everything is $5. 


A list of the new arrivals and farewells on netflix in March. (We're getting 3 Monster High movies including the all new Haunted on March 10, but we're losing seasons 1-4 of Adventure Time)


El Museo del Prado in Madrid opened an art exhibit for the visually impaired and blind




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5FF: My Kids Will Have Awesome Names

5 Fandom Friday on HarperHoney

It's been ages since I've done 5 Fandom Friday, but I'm trying to get back on track! Brought to you by The Nerdy Girlie and Super Space Chick! Today's theme: 5 Characters You Would Name Your Kids After.

Am I positive I'll have kids? No. If I do, I'm pretty sure I do not want them to come out of my body (there are plenty of kids who need adopting!) but if I do get the opportunity to name kids, they are going to have awesome, pop culture inspired names.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird
(c/o Universal Pictures)
1. Atticus Finch. If it hasn't been made obvious to you by now, I love To Kill A Mockingbird. It is one of my favorite books, and I feel an affinity with it on a lot of levels. (Hello, have you noticed I'm Harper Yi, and TKAM is written by Harper Lee?) I also share a birthday with the man who played Atticus in the film, Gregory Peck. Whenever I am asked about what I'd name my kids, one of the first responses out of my mouth is always "Atticus Jackson" because it sounds awesome and lends itself to some good nicknames like AJ. Whether he grows up to be a lawyer, an actor, or a janitor, who wouldn't wanna hire someone named Atticus Jackson??

Mabel Pines from Gravity Falls
(c/o Disney)
2. Mabel Pines. It is no secret that I kind of have a thing for cute grandma names-- the kind that are uncommon but not overly stuffy ("Gertrude" and "Millicent" are pretty uncute in my opinion) like you time travelled to the 40s or 50s and started hanging out with some really cute teenaged girls-- so I've always loved the name Mabel, but when I started watching the crazy awesomeness that is Gravity Falls, my world changed and I knew that if I had a girl-child someday, I'd want to name her Mabel.

Twyla from Monster High
(c/o Mattel)
3. Twyla Boogeyman (or just Twyla). Twyla, sometimes last-name-less and sometimes listed as Twyla Boogeyman, is my favorite Monster High character. There are a lot of reasons to love her: she is one of the few characters that actively doesn't care about popularity or being liked by anyone she doesn't consider a friend. She likes fashion but not so much that it takes over her identity-- not that there's anything wrong with fashion being a big part of your identity, but I certainly appreciate the fact that there is a fashion doll character who loves her sense of style without being consumed by it. She always keeps it real and she has a really good sense of her priorities. I like the name Twyla because it's unusual-- it's not one we hear often in the US-- and I really like uncommon names since being born "Samantha" was a really unpleasant experience.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in Once
(c/o Samson Films/Summit Enterprises)
4. Glen Hansard. Glen Hansard is not a fictional character, but he is the co-creator and original star of the film Once which was then turned into a musical. He starred as "guy," a fictitious version of himself in many ways. Once is one of my favorite musicals and one of my top 10 life changing films. I would seriously consider naming a child after him, but with his last name as their first name. Hansard is a cool name, don't you think?

(c/o Fox)
5. Mindy Lahiri. Okay this is nice because it's kind of a two-fer since it'd also equate to naming a kid after one of my personal heroes, Mindy Kaling, the creator of the eponymous character Mindy Lahiri from her show The Mindy Project. Mindy is seriously so amazing and funny and I love her style or humor, so I'd love to name a kid after someone who, while maybe not the most virtuous and noble person ever, is someone who is unapologetically herself. I think that's important for kids to appreciate.


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Harper Watched: A Monster In Paris

Harper Watched is a feature where I review a film I watched (or sometimes a TV show). Today we have a french animated film called A Monster In Paris

Review: A Monster In Paris
(c/o EUROPA)
Ever the fan of animated movies, I took the time off afforded by the snow day last week to watch a totally cute animated movie on Netflix: A Monster in Paris. I'd seen the trailer when it first came state-side but due to other films coming out around the same time, I wasn't particularly interested in it. On top of them making one of the headlining features the fact that it was from the same people who brought us Shark Tale (fun, but unimpressive and fluffy), the animation looked a lot like that of Hotel Transylvania which I didn't really like, so I put it out of my mind. Only recently when I watched another French animated film, Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart, did I regain interest in the movie since the trailer for it was built into my DVD of Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart. The thing that stuck out to me most, having been super into the music in Jack, was the music in the trailer.



The plot

So what is this movie about? It's set in Paris, obviously, but less obviously it's set in a steampunk-ish Paris that Jules Verne might've imagined. Even less obviously, it's set in a Paris in turmoil-- The Seine has flooded dramatically, leaving the inhabitants of the lower-lying levels of the city the exact opposite of high-and-dry. Most Parisians struggle to get from one place to another, needing to use boats and floating walk ways to get about. Many have lost homes and businesses to the flooding. The only place where business goes about as usual is up on the hill of Montmartre, where most of the story takes place. Parts of the story seem very loosely based off of The Phantom of the Opera, but it is a very distinct story and most of the references are more like mini-homages and easter eggs than heavy plot points.

We open the film learning about Paris' wet predicament and of Emile, a short, shy projectionist at a movie theater who is in love with Maude, a coworker of his at the cinema. He has a friend named Raoul (which I think is intentionally a reference to Phantom) who is a brilliant, fast-talking, kinda dorky inventor who runs a delivery service using a delivery truck he has modified in a number of unusual ways. It's named Catherine. I wish they had named the truck "Christine" instead, but I digress.

Meanwhile, Lucille, a successful singer at The Rare Bird is introduced. For her act, she wears white and wings like an angel (one might even say... an Angel of Music?). She ends up catching the eye of the wealthy police commissioner, Victor Maynott. Maynott is obsessed with himself and his ambition, even at the expense of the Parisians still struggling with the effects of the flood. Lucille is unimpressed and frankly a little disgusted with the way the commissioner acts, but nonetheless her aunt tries to encourage her to take up with him anyway.

Raoul brings Emile along for a delivery to the Botanical Garden for a Professor who is currently away in New York. The professor left his assistant, a proboscis monkey named Charles, in charge of the garden which also serves as a laboratory. Raoul and Emile go exploring the lab and end up tinkering with some potions that cause a sunflower seed to grow into a 50-foot flower, give Charles a fantastic singing voice, and makes a flea that had been living on Charles grow to 7 feet and gain a propensity for music and song. The flea escapes into the night and adventure ensues!
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