*** (out of 5)
October 31, 2014
Daniel Radcliffe as IG PERRISH
Max Minghella as LEE TOURNEAU
Joe Anderson as TERRY PERRISH
Juno Temple as MERRIN WILLIAMS
Kelli Garner as GLENNA SHEPHERD
James Remar as DERRICK PERRISH
Kathleen Quinlan as LYDIA PERRISH
Heather Graham as VERONICA
David Morse as DALE WILLIAMS
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I’ve got to hand it to Daniel Radcliffe. Of all the “Harry Potter” kids, he is the one that seems to be navigating into adult acting roles the best, and he’s not doing so by shunning anything remotely related to that franchise. This is why he is able to do simple indie romantic comedies like “What If?” (also known as “The F Word”) as well as more fantastical stories like “Horns.”
With “Horns,” Radcliffe neither hides from his wizardy roots nor embraces them. This makes the magical things that happen in “Horns” something unique rather than being derivative.
Directed by Alexandre Aja (“High Tension” and “Piranha 3D”), “Horns” tells the story of a young man named Ig (Radcliffe) who is accused of murdering his girlfriend (Juno Temple). While Ig tries furiously to prove his innocence, he wakes up one day with what appear to be devil’s horns growing out of his forehead. Some people barely notice them, but the horns have a unique effect on those around him, which is to make them brutally honest and ready to act out their darkest intentions. Ig uses this power and the fear that comes with it to uncover the truth about his girlfriend’s death.
There are some pretty impressive elements to “Horns,” mostly pulled off by a strong cast and some out-of-the-box thinking. We are never given direct answers, which works for a film like this. Why Ig suddenly sprouted horns on that particular day is irrelevant to what they actually reveal.
The film is based on a book by Joe Hill, whose father is best-selling author Stephen King. This is worth mentioning because you can see a lot of King influences in the story. Otherwise, I would not have mentioned it, considering Hill went through the trouble of using a different surname to distance himself professionally from his father (presumably to prove himself as a writer rather than just the son of a famous guy). And to this end, Hill creates an intriguing world that does hold up outside of the worlds his father created.
However, like Stephen King said about his busted pseudonym of Richard Bachman in the 1980s, people recognized the writing even if it wasn’t under the same name. It’s not that Hill’s story feel like it’s written by his father. Instead, it has many things you’d see in his father’s work: flashbacks to a group of middle school friends, a small town setting, latent homosexual urges in the dim-witted sheriff, and a populace that wants to act out its deepest and darkest desires.
Still, while the influence is there, Hill’s story comes from a younger approach. This results in some good things – like a more modern feel to the characters. Other times, it gets in the way – like presenting the girlfriend as nothing more than the now-tired manic-pixie dreamgirl that so many authors obsess about in the new millennium.
Aja has a somewhat muted approach to this movie, and it’s hardly shocking from either a crime perspective or a horror one. However, I don’t think he was trying to do this because he has shown several times before that he is more than able to film brutality. Instead, Aja tries to craft a love story wrapped up in a demonic bow.
The acting holds the film together, much of which is on Radcliffe’s shoulders. It’s a nice piece for him to help break into larger movies without a wizard’s cloak for him. In the end, “Horns” is different enough to be worth a look, but it’s not terribly ground-breaking.