Release Date: 29 October 2014
Running time: 120 minutes
Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Heather Graham, David Morse
Following his turn as one of popular culture’s most beloved icons, Daniel Radcliffe has become a strange sort of commodity. Despite being instantly recognisable by many and no doubt backed by thousands of fans, his awkward screen persona has made for an uneasy transition into less kid-friendly fare. His first post-Potter role The Woman in Black seemed to be shy of his capabilities, and this years hipster rom-com What If was thoroughly wince-inducing. Director Alexandre Aja has been smart in this instance; for Radcliffe it has been all or nothing when approaching Horns, and by rushing headlong into his first bad-boy role he has freed himself from his gawkish shackles. It’s a shame then that his finest performance is eclipsed by the at times inventive but ultimately frustrating framework he’s tied into.
We find Ig Parrish (Radcliffe) in a destructive state of mourning after the murder of his girlfriend Merrin (Temple). Vehemently denying any part in her death, he spends his days being drunk and angry as he’s hounded by locals and bloodthirsty broadcasters. When he wakes up one day to find a pair of horns have sprouted from his cranium, he realises that he has the unwitting power to expose the ugly side of his fellow townfolk’s personalities.
As a darkly comic horror with a high concept premise, Horns works incredibly well. Providing a platform for ridiculous scenarios and OTT performances, the permeating influence of the horns turns the town into a veritable orgy of madness. Parrish uses this to his advantage in various creative ways. He has fun with the power at first, using his influence to set characters against each other with violent -and often hilarious- consequences. This also grants him the ability to play detective as the horns make him into a something of a walking truth exposer, allowing him to extract information regarding Merrin’s murder.
While this all works to great effect for the first hour or so, the fun gradually starts to fade away once this concept is virtually abandoned and replaced with exasperating relationship dramas. Everything becomes increasingly convoluted; perfunctory scenes are scattered everywhere and the 120 minute running time really starts to grate. It gets to the point where you think the film has ended so many times, that when last few scenes rear their head you’ll have given up caring. Throw in some casual misogyny and Horns will not only have left you bored by the time the credits roll, but aching for something sweet to remove the bad taste from your mouth. Yet another example of a boy’s own horror comedy that fails to recognise women as fully fledged characters in their own right. So frustrating.
It’s such a shame that a film with so much promise squanders its potential with some messy, lazy filmmaking. Alexandre Aja has a track record of creating off-the-wall horror, and while his films may not appeal to all, they can rarely be described as boring. This may be the case for Horns in parts, but the good will you build up throughout its running time will have been largely stamped out come its preposterous finish. Let’s hope at least that this can kickstart Radcliffe’s acting career for the better.