Joe Hill is rapidly becoming one of the best horror authors working, and the fact that he splits his attention between novels, short stories, and comics is just one more reason to be impressed at his output. Of course, if your dad was Stephen King and your mother was Tabitha King and you spent much of your childhood playing writing games as a family (something Stephen King has written about in his own work), you'd probably stand at least a small chance of developing into a writer of substance, too.
The thing I love about Hill's work is that he doesn't ape his dad in any way, but he has obviously inherited the most important thing a writer can have: a voice. There are plenty of competent writers who tell compentent stories, but there's nothing about their work that has a pulse. Hill, like his father, could tell you a story about absolutely nothing and the way he does it is what would make the work stand out. Thankfully, Hill has a really crafty way of building his work, and his first novel, "Heart-Shaped Box," is a beautifully satisfying piece of work, as is his short-story collection, "20th Century Ghosts." I haven't read much of his comic series, "Lock & Key," but what I have read absolutely feels to be of a piece with his previous work.
Last week, Hill was taunting his Twitter followers with vague hints about his upcoming novel, Horns, and the only thing he was willing to say is that the book definitely deals in some way with the Devil.
Now, thanks to a deal made by Mandalay Pictures, more details are available, and months before the book hits shelves, the film is already beginning to work its way through the development process en route to a theater near you.
Here's what Variety has to say about the book:
"Novel is described as a love story driven by horror and vengeance that revolves around a 26-year-old man who wakes up one morning from a blackout hangover and finds horns sprouting out of his head. As the horns grow bigger by the day, the reason why seems to lie in the unsolved murder of his girlfriend."
That's certainly more than Hill was willing to describe, and it sounds like a perfect canvass for his keen observations about the darkest parts of the human heart.
What I found even more interesting, though, was the description of why Mandalay handled the purchase the way they did:
"Deal for 'Horns' becomes the latest project for Mandalay as its pursues a strategy, spearheaded by prexy Cathy Schulman, to option properties and develop them inhouse before seeking financing or shopping them to the studios. Effort is seen as a way to speed up the development process while also maintaining more creative control."
That's a paradigm shift, and I'm seeing more and more companies try to go this route. It's exciting, because it cuts the studio notes out of the process until everyone involved has a product they really like. I hope more and more production companies pursue this sort of option instead of just always strapping on the studio feedbag.
The book will be published in February. We'll continue to update you as the film slowly moves through the process.