At the time you read this, you probably would have or are about to see Elijah Wood as deranged serial killer Frank Zito in the remake of William Lustig's 1980 cult slasher Maniac, Alexandre Aja's latest service to horror and his third outing as producer. Why didn't he direct, you ask? It seems that Aja has been expanding his horizons to pastures anew with dark supernatural love fable Horns, an adaptation of Joe Hill's acclaimed novel.
With surprising casting in Daniel Radcliffe as Ignatius “Ig” Perrish - the vengeful, horn-headed lead and accompanied by fresh up and coming BAFTA winning British talent Juno Temple as his ill fated love interest, this is looking to be Alexandre Aja's most intriguing work yet. We managed to sit down with Alexandre amidst a very hectic schedule for a brief chat to get the skinny on his strange new project.
FEARnet: For those out there who don't know, what exactly is Horns?
AJA: Physically its a very kind of dark rock 'n' roll fable of a man who sells his soul to the devil to get revenge on the person who killed his girlfriend. It's much more complicated than that but it's really about what you would do to figure out and get your own justice who destroyed your life and killed the woman you love.
A revenge movie?
It's not exactly a revenge movie, it's more on the angle of a love story. Whoever knows the book, the book is really smart, it goes beyond the Faustian kind of deal. It's really about the guy whose life was destroyed in the wreckage, who woke up one morning with horns growing on his head, who has this ability to make people confess to him the worst of their thoughts and the worst of their deepest secrets. It's why I loved and laughed and fell in love with the book like so many other people; it's because of this mix of genres – it's at the same time scary, at the same time emotional, the same time dark and funny. You can imagine a very weird mix between Fight Club and Black Swan. It's really the vibe of Joe Hill's book and that’s what I tried to translate to the movie.
This all sounds like a completely new direction for you, away from horror...
It's a complete different direction, you know? As far as all the movies I make, yes, I'm making a movie in the genre; most of the movies that I make are films that I try to make scary, try to be a ride and try to be like an experience. I think there is a really big difference between High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha, Mirrors or Horns. They are really different explorations of the genre and I tried each time to do something very, very different, and here is even more I think than previously. Piranha was a noir comedy more than a horror movie and here it's even more like a love story with a dark side that's very funny, with a lot of dark humor as well.
Is this your way of moving on from horror then?
I love the genre, I just don't want as a filmmaker to be locked into a place where I have to do the same scene all over again movie after movie... Horns was definitely a big challenge because it was much more character driven and there is the drama side of it and there's this whole new terrain for me to explore.
How did production go?
Production was great! We shot last winter like a few months ago and we finished shooting in December, had such an amazing experience out of it. It's a really amazing cast... you know it's not only Daniel Radcliffe, it's Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson and Kelli Garner. They all form a group, like a group of friends that grew up together and who are all linked by a secret. It's believable, it's very interesting, because I really feel this new generation of actors and Daniel are going to be a big reveal of the movie.
Did you ever worry that Daniel Radcliffe would bring too much of a 'PG-13' image to such a dark story?
Daniel is a very interesting actor; he's very young, he's not even 24. At the same time he's one of the most famous faces ever – he's a brand by himself. It was a very hard term for him to go from the Harry Potter movies to something so different to Horns. I really appreciate the fact that he took that risk, because a lot of actors in the same position would have chose not to expose themselves in such a daring character... he's definitely the character. The story of Horns is about Paradise Lost and about that kind of character... Daniel Radcliffe, he's the fallen angel who has his garden of Eden destroyed the day his girlfriend Juno Temple was raped and killed. It's the really the story of someone who goes to hell and literally starts growing horns and start turning into the devil.. to go out again and find out and kill, and psychically find some kind of... not salvation, but like something that will bring him a little bit closer to her by being on this journey. He had that kind of pure bravado... I'm not quite sure that's the right word in English. He has the soul of the hero. He has the kind of positive things in him where you can see the courage. You can see how he will do everything to find out what happened to the woman he loved. He carried this kind of romanticism somehow. There is no question that he is definitely the best person to play that, and I think no one can expect what he will deliver in the movie. It's really strong, and the heart of his character... it's a gigantic heart. I loved working with him and would do another [film] with him right away.
Is it correct that Shia LaBeouf was originally set to play the lead?
Shia got out of the project before I got attached to the project. It was not during my time. Shia, in the same way as Daniel... you can see the night in them. The kind of cool edge, that kind of inclination of the good guy who can go into the ultimate darkness to find out the light again.
How faithful is your adaptation to Joe Hill's book?
I tried to be as faithful to the book as possible. The book is very long and we had to make some choices, but everyone who has seen the movie so far is really happy with the translation of the book into the movie.