Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple & Heather Graham
Running time: 120 min
In the aftermath of his girlfriend’s mysterious death, a young man awakens to strange horns sprouting from his temples.
Daniel Radcliffe has been doing his damnedest of late to shake off the inevitable residual typecasting of his Harry Potter years. From the Hammer-revived spookfest The Woman In Black to his impressive stage performances in Equus and The Cripple Of Inishmaan, he’s been doing pretty well so far. Now he takes things a step further by stepping into the shoes vacated (thankfully) by Shia Le Beauf to assume the role of Ig Perrish in the movie adaptation of Joe Hill’s supernatural bestseller Horns.
A year after his girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple) is brutally raped and murdered, for which he is the prime suspect, Perrish wakes after a drunken binge to find devilish horns growing on his head. He soon discovers their purpose when people he engages with suddenly confess their innermost secrets and sets in motion a supernatural whodunnit in a search to find the truth about Merrin’s murder. As the horns grow, so does Ig’s power and a frightening transformation unfolds as his search intensifies.
Eyebrows were raised ever-so-slightly when French horror director Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3D, The Hills Have Eyes reboot and the awful Mirrors) was given the director’s chair for this project. Many thought it would be an opportunity for Aja to raise his game while others were not so confident of his ability to adapt Hill’s text.
While it’s obvious from the outset that Hitchcock is a huge influence on Aja, it seems that he lacks the skills in certain areas beyond his horror expertise. Horns is incredibly disjointed in parts, with sudden changes in tone hindering the narrative. One moment a coming-of-age Stand By Me-esque affair, it suddenly morphs into a darkly comic trip into smalltown secrets, a somewhat predictable mystery, and a tragic romance culminating in a gory confrontation.
At times it’s difficult to figure out what audience it’s aimed at, using young twentysomethings who don’t quite convince as adults and filmed a stone’s throw from where Twilight was in Vancouver you’d be forgiven for thinking this was an attempt to appeal to an inevitably aging YA audience.
Quite often it’s the simple things that fail this movie, from the over-stylised love scene between Radcliffe and Temple to the badly executed musical performance scene with Anderson it’s obvious these scenes were rushed and there are times when this movie seems to overflow with cinematic clichés and overused concepts.
All is not lost however. Horns does have a lot going for it. Radcliffe’s performance is stellar as he embraces the effects the Horns are having and revels in the mayhem he creates, and while his tiny frame and youthful appearance betray him during the tougher moments in the film, his acting remains true and there are moments, (particularly in a scene with his parents when the Horns force them to tell the truth about how they feel about Ig and his involvement in Merrin’s murder) where he absolutely nails it.
The supporting cast can be hit and miss. Temple’s portrayal of Merrin is subtle, if a little underplayed while Max Minghella is unconvincing as Ig’s best friend and lawyer Lee Tourneau. Joe Anderson plays well opposite Radcliffe as his brother Terry, a drug addled musician and while they may be considered safe casting choices, serial character actors James Remar and David Morse are excellent as Ig and Merrin’s respective fathers.
The best moments in the film come from Ig’s interactions with the townspeople as he goes about his quest. Heather Graham is hilarious as the opportunistic waitress willing to sell him out for fame and fortune and an Anchorman-style newsfolk brawl initiated by Ig is simultaneously hilarious and disturbing as is the effect his Horns have on the residents of the local bar.
Horns is definitely a movie worth seeing. If you can embrace the silliness and stick with the narrative it’s an interesting take on mixed genres and despite it’s obvious flaws it does it’s best to tell a complex and innovative story with pop culture sensibility and edgy humour, albeit with a slight identity crisis.
3 out of 5 Nerds