If Daniel Radcliffe in fancy dress performing a Twihard’s adaptation of Gone Girl makes you horny then you’re in for a treat (Not a trick… Halloween pun). The latest film from Alexandra Aja, director of The Hills have eyes, Horns is a 2 hour fantasy crime drama with unnecessary elements of modern horror films.
The plot is straight-forward; the female half of an apparently smitten couple winds up dead and the male, Radcliffe playing Ig, is ostracized by his small town’s bored-looking community as well as the media. A struggling Ig wakes up the next morning to find he has sprouted devilish horns which supernaturally force people he converses with to share their innermost thoughts as well as allow Ig to see people’s memories as a series of flashbacks when he touches them physically.
My biggest gripe with the film, and I suppose is therefore more to do with the book it was based on, is that the horns feel entirely without purpose throughout. First of all, there is no explanation as to why the horns are consigned to him. I expected in an all too lengthy scene with younger versions of the main characters that when Ig has a close call with death some kind of soul-selling would occur… just some kind of explanation would have sufficed! All the other gimmicky horny scenes were just for comic effect (fighting journalists, outing gay cops etc) or video-nasty style out of the blue horror elements for example setting up jump scares or causing characters to self-induce drug hallucinations so we can see a bowl of maggots on screen (no effect on character arcs or storyline).
This is why I believe Horns would have been considerably better as a crime drama. Radcliffe’s performance was strong, apart from a few passionless cringe-worthy screams and lines, he really portrayed the fear and guilt needed for this type of role. His accent, like Emma Watson’s in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, was adequate to my ear and non-distracting. Replace horn forced witness flashbacks with interrogation (Radcliffe strong-arms a couple of confessions anyway), generally improve screenwriting to reduce the painful dialogue instances, especially between kids (thought I was watching Boyhood again at times) and a lot could be taken from this for future genre-adjusted projects.
All that being said; the film is visually attractive and really locks you into the Truman Show-like globe of a town that we follow Ig around in. The film’s ending is spectacular and satisfying and several big name cameos help to light up parts of the film that might of otherwise dragged on too much more than they already do.
If you’re looking for something scary, look elsewhere. This is not the Halloween film that the release date might imply and that could be something that leaves you disappointed in itself. Horns has no strong themes, nor interesting characters but it does have enough gags and storyline to keep you interested and maybe see its potential too.