Horns is a darkly comic horror fable from French director Alexandre Aja based on the book written by Joe Hill. I entered the film with relatively low expectations and came out with a fat grin on my face. I assumed it would be typical YA fare with a predictable story. I could not have been more out of line. This is an engaging tale of extortion and disaffection mixed in with fantasy elements headlined by an astute performance from Daniel Radcliffe.
Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe is Ig, a young (American) adult who lost the love of his life (Juno Temple) after a breakup followed by her murder. Reporters follow him around everyday parading him with guilt and allegations that he murdered her. Ig’s only solitude is drinking alone and spending time with his family and his best friend Lee (Max Minghella). Blaming God for his misfortune, Ig curses him out. Whatever faith he had before is dead in the ground.
When Ig wakes up hungover the next day, sharp horns appear to be growing out of his forehead. He discovers that the horns contain powers. Whenever he’s in the presence of others, they confess all their deepest secrets a la The Invention of Lying. The absurd part is that they promptly forget what they told Ig the instant he turns back. He also encompasses the power of persuasion. Ig decides to use this as an advantage to find the murder culprit.
It’s impressive when a movie realizes what it is and takes advantage of its ludicrous storyline. This is a genre-bending film that integrates comedy and horror in the best possible way. There’s a scene early on where Ig convinces two competing news stations to battle each other in hopes of getting an interview with him. Sometimes it’s nice to have situations go exactly the way you would expect. Horns does just that and more. I love it when a plan comes together.
Daniel Radcliffe is a tremendously talented individual on and off screen. Horns only cements the fact that he’s able to emasculate multiple personalities distant from his Harry Potter days. It’s nice to see him branching out from that trademark and trying to make a name for himself rather than being typecast in movies that appeal to a wider audience. His character is vulgar, profane and devilish at times. Radcliffe pulls off an authentic American accent and effectively carries the film.
Horns is filled with accustomed faces that fit into the film. Heather Graham is Veronica, a waitress who has been feeding lies to the press about Ig. Her character, while briefly shown, adds a level of farce to the table. Juno Temple (The Dark Knight Rises) is Merrin, Ig’s murdered ex-girlfriend. Temple is given little since she is only seen through flashbacks, but turns in a sturdy performance. Joe Anderson and Max Minghella play Ig’s brother and best friend, respectively. Both bounce off of Radcliffe’s character whenever they’re approached by him, being obligated to tell the truth. Both manifest quality roles.
The way the story moves along is at a brisk pace that doesn’t leave any breathing room for the viewer. Each individual scene has significance thanks to Keith Bunin’s superb screenplay going hand in hand with Aja’s skillful direction. Tracking Ig’s rummage into hell is exhibited through flashback sequences interlaying with present events. Add to that a solid narration from Radcliffe and a menacing tone throughout; there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
Horns – 4 out of 5