Books v Film

Book v Film: Horns

Won’t you guess my name?

Horns was one of those ones where I saw the film before reading the book.

Is it just me or do you find that if you see the film before reading the book that you enjoy them both on a more equal footing?

I find that if I read the book first then I generally find the films less enjoyable. I have to work hard to get past my own mental image of the characters, locations etc I also find that I miss the bits they cut more as well. But if I watch the film first then I enjoy both the film and books. I’m not sure if this is to do with the fact that watching a film is a much more passive exercise than reading, or if I’m just happier to accept the actors as my mental image of characters, or if the films I watch before reading the books are just great bloody films.

I think this might be the case with Horns.

The film was fantastic, wonderfully acted, wonderfully scored, it really sucked me in and made me want to go read the book.

Naturally, there are still some differences between the two mediums but before I got into those I wanted to give a little bit of thought as to why my mind works the way it does. 


Photo by imustbedead on

Horns was written by Joe Hill and published in 2010. The book was adapted into a movie, which was directed by Alexander Aja and starred Daniel Radcliff, and was released in 2014.

In a nutshell the story is that a girl, Merrin, is raped and murdered. Everyone suspects it was her boyfriend Ignatius Perrish (bloody love that guys name), known as Ig. Ig wakes up one day after Merrin’s death to find he has grown horns (as you do). The horns give him the ability to learn people’s secrets and he uses them to discover who really killed Merrin, as well as a lot of other things. 

The movie for the most part remains true to the plot of the book and is in keeping with the spirit of the book. However, there are some changes.

Big Changes (epic spoilers)

There are three big changes between the two mediums.

The film has a linear timeline and is told from Ig’s perspective, meaning that the story is told in the order it happened with occasional flashbacks to the time Merrin was alive as Ig discovers more about his girlfriend that he didn’t know. However the book has distinct timelines that it jumps between, as well as different perspectives, meaning the story is not told in a completely linear sense and you have to piece things together.

I understand why this was done, It makes telling the story easier and ensures the audience can follow along easier. Timelines are easier to follow in books and you can flip back pages and absorb the story slowly over time. Films jumping around tend to become confusing. So I think this change was done to simply make the story easier to absorb for an audience.

The Treehouse was changed significantly. This is a key location in both the book and film but in the book the treehouse was slightly more ambiguous. It’s actual existence is debatable. Ig and Merrin found the treehouse, which is full of religious parifinalia, while hiking in the woods once, but then when they tries to find it again later they couldn’t. Though Ig did find it again while drunk and it is where he gained his horns.

In the movie the treehouse is just a treehouse, Ig found it when he was a kid and it’s the place he brought Merrin and they spent a lot of time there together. It’s still very special to them but for very different reasons.

The ending was also changed, simplified for the film.

The similarities are that they both involve the Treehouse, they both reveal that Lee was the one who killed Merrin, and he and Ig fight. In the book Ig kills Lee in a brutal fight and is magically restored to health via fire. He follows the fire (there was a fire earlier at the foundry) to the cherry tree where the treehouse was. The treehouse appears beyond the flames and Ig goes inside, inside the treehouse is a wedding party where Merrin is waiting for him.

In the film the fight takes place, Ig turns into an epic demon monster and kills Lee but also dies himself. He wakes up in the afterlife and is reunited with Merrin.

As I said above I think the ending was simplified for the film and also made a lot clearer. In the film Ig is dead and is reunited with Merrin, also dead. Whereas the book can be interpreted differently, it could be that Ig climbs into a burning tree and dies, it could be that Merrin is restored to life somehow, or it could be that due to the unclear nature of the treehouse that Ig has effectively entered a pocket dimension where his deepest wish has come true. Who knows, its ambiguous.

Small changes

Photo by Pixabay on

The book starts in a different place to the movie. In the film the story starts a couple of months after Merrin’s death, while in the book its been a solid year.

The setting is different as well, the book takes place in New Hampshire, while the film is set in Washington state.

Certain characters backgrounds are changed slightly for the film, Glenna is a bar maid rather than working in a salon etc.

Merrin’s family dynamic changed from book to film. In the book she has both her parents but her sister has died from cancer. In the film her mother died from cancer, she never had a sister and lived alone with her dad.

Over all I would recommend both the film and the book in this case. They are both awesome. Go read and watch.

I'd love to hear what you think, please comment below.

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