Directed By: Alexandre Aja
Written By: Keith Bunin (screenplay), Joe Hill (novel)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella
One thing you have to say about Director Alexandre Aja’s latest film Horns is that it goes all out. It comes off as a twisted Twilight Zone episode that has been mutated to fit the modern teenage sensibility. Part satire, part dark-comedy, part horror, part romance, and pretty much part anything it feels like in the moment. Horns is the classic case of a movie that does not know what it wants to be. Does it wish to satirize the Supernatural Love Affair or be a part of it? Does it dare to enter the demonic world of dark comedy, or does it prefer to indulge in its own goofiness? By the end these questions are still looking for answers.
Based on a novel by Joe Hill Horns tells the story of a young man who becomes the prime suspect of his beloved girlfriend’s murder. Although he pleads innocence, the entire town blames him for the crime. Shockingly and without reason he awakes one morning to find he has grown mysterious horns. Making things even stranger they also appear to cause those around him to indulge in their inner demons and let loose their deepest secrets. Seeing the opportunity in front of him he wishes to use these new-found abilities to find his girlfriend’s actual killer.
Daniel Radcliffe plays Ig Perrish the beleaguered boyfriend who has been cursed in more ways than one. He slowly but surely is stepping out of the daunting Harry Potter shadow. Previously with The Woman in Black he stepped into the unique world of old-school horror, and how he is going for the more modern approach. Radcliffe is clearly a quality actor, and you have to give him credit for taking chances. However, I wonder if he was the wrong choice for this role. His acting style and sensibilities do not naturally flow with the tone of the film. When he is pleading with his girlfriend’s dad that he did not kill his daughter his performance is fitting with a serious drama. It’s like watching an Oscar moment in the middle of a slasher flick. When his character enters into some darker territory he lacks the edge to fully pull it off. He never comes off as the type of guy that would stand idly by as his brother overdoses, let alone be the person responsible for it happening.
Part of what makes Horns failures so disappointing is that it does occasionally show some potential. The idea of having the ability to divulge secrets from others is intriguing, especially when those secrets come from unexpected targets. To the films credit it is more than just a gag as it does move the story forward. When he does uncover more information about the night his girlfriend died it does lead you to reexamine the mystery. However, you cannot help but wonder if it could have done more. Hearing his parents believed he did murder his girlfriend could have been a brilliant moment if it was not so under plaid. We are left with moments like a random bar patron expressing his love for exposing himself and a doctor confessing far too much about his patients as examples of what this power can do. While those instances may get a cheap laugh or two, there are far more interesting places they could have gone.
Director Alexandre Aja does bring some intriguing style. His last film Piranha 3D took a ridiculous idea and had a lot of fun with it. Some of that occurs here as well. A snake attack inside a car provides a needed level of salacious fun. Also a hellish brawl between Ig and an unexpected foe goes to some perverse directions. Unfortunately the final climax is a huge let down. The energy that was building fizzles out in its attempt to find a way to end. Everything becomes this gigantic mess of random happenings with no rhyme or reason behind much of anything.
Progression is none existent for much of the second half. It stops being a story and moves into being a series of contrivances that lack any sort of explanation. Horns could have easily been the anti–Twilight that deconstructs the ridiculousness of the Teenage Supernatural Romance genre. Sadly that is not the case as it is more akin to those films than a satire of them. By pandering with its romance too much its more devilish side is left out in the cold.
Horns has a lot of compelling ideas, it just does not know what to do with them. It’s lack of identity hinders its unique concept from being much more than a overblown gimmick.