Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella
Genre: Thriller/ Horror
After the brutal murder of his girlfriend Merrin (Temple), the entire town suspects that Iggy Parrish (Radcliffe) did it, despite him protesting his innocence. One morning Iggy awakens to find to his horror that he has grown a pair of horns on his temples, however he soon discovers that they enable him to have a rather bizarre effect on people who then confess their sins and act out on their darkest impulses. With these powers, Iggy is determined to use them to discover the true identity of the Merrin’s murderer and clear his name.
With some of his recent roles Daniel Radcliffe is most certainly making the admirable decision of trying to broaden his pallet as an actor and though Alexndra Aja’s strange horror-comedy mashup is a tad all over the place in terms of narrative structure, Radcliffe’s superb performance is the lynchpin keeping it all together. Maybe his natural accent is what makes him seemingly lack screen presence in the likes of The Woman in Black, but he was exceptional when donning an American accent in the excellent Kill Your Darlings and is just as superb in Horns. It is a performance that would have been so easy to overplay and therefore be almost camp and pantomime-like, but while screenwriter Keith Bunin and director Alexandra Aja often seem to struggle to get to grips with adapting Joe Hill’s novel for the screen, Radcliffe’s performance gives the narrative far more engagement than it probably deserves.
Horns most certainly did not do too well at the box office, and it is easy to see why; if the writer and director do not know what they are making then the money grabbing marketing bods do not stand a chance! This is actually a shame as there are many pleasures to be had when watching Horns, and in context when compared to the cynical and turgid ‘horror’ films that turn over huge profits it is an absolute bona fide masterpiece (I do however emphasise the phrase ‘in context’).
Horns is most definitely at its best when playing everything for laughs and as the locals reveal their darkest inner thoughts to Ig it makes for some genuinely hilarious moments and this is when Keith Bunin’s script does truly shine.
There is of course a serious murder mystery to solve and how the narrative deals with this is often very clumsy and it most certainly feels that Bunin and Aja treat this is as of secondary importance to the comedy element. This is a shame as it does not fully utilise the intriguing and quite original concept of the narrative and the supposed revelations and emotional pay-offs tend to lack any real impact or satisfaction. The sense of dark humoured fun and Radcliffe’s superb performance make sure that Horns is never anything less than watchable and often hilarious, but it is just a shame that as a supposed thriller, it lacks any kind of coherent or solid structure. This is especially the case in the film’s finale, in what is an overlong and ill-disciplined film anyway, it is a final sequence that should be dramatic, but it is somehow lacking.
A real genre hybrid that certainly fails to utilise its potential; Horns is often hilarious and at its best when focussing on its comic elements, but despite an excellent central performance from Radcliffe its lack of narrative discipline and coherence renders it ultimately as a waste of its potential.