Playing Devil’s Advocate for the Radcliffe Led Horns
Despite Daniel Radcliffe’s valiant effort to shed his boyish image, he ultimately fails to take the devil by the “Horns” in this good-idea-done-wrong horror-comedy.
“He will bring out the devil in you.”
This is yet another example of a highly marketable and unique movie concept done wrong. Joe Hill’s novel, the namesake and source material for this film, didn’t achieve it’s International Best Seller status with a lazy climax and muddled finale. Hill was able to paint a tapestry of prose, leading his readers through a supernatural setting rife with fantasy, mystery and romance as we follow Ig Parrish (Radcliffe), a stereotypical 20 something year old slacker with nothing really going for him in life besides his too-good-for-him girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple).
From parents to police, Ig is being fingered as the prime suspect in the brutal rape and murder of his beloved lifelong sweetheart. Drowning in a haze of alcohol and sorrow he soon finds himself sprouting horns, but these are no ordinary horns. As Ig traverses his town he comes to learn the power his horns hold, a power which makes people confess their darkest secrets and give into their most sinful impulses. Hell bent on finding the truth surrounding his girlfriend’s tragic murder, Ig stubbornly employs the horns power to exact his ultimate revenge.
Conceptually speaking, this should have been one of the best films of 2014. Add the substantial cast including Daniel Radcliffe, Heather Graham, James Remar and Max Minghella, and it’s all the more reason that this should have been a sure fire it. Although I really wanted this film to succeed or at-least be a cult-hit, there were some outstanding factors that damned this film from it’s inception.
Initially, the pacing and the tone of the film are fantastic. Radcliffe, and I hate to say it, actually did a tremendous job as the guilt-riddled boyfriend. He was letting his acting chops shine through as he aptly encapsulated the dark-hearted and highly-perturbed character. Although many critics have battered Radcliffe’s involvement in this film, I maintain that he is one of few people in the film strong enough to captivate.
Juno Temple was a beautifully Angelic presence and the chemistry created when paired with Radcliffe was both believable and endearing. I could see the rich and deep-rooted romantic history between the characters which added to the rawness of the emotional impact it had on Ig upon Merrin’s untimely death.
Ig’s family also added to the depth of his character so perfectly. Through their interactions we were able to gain a greater sense as to the root of his frustrations. Conversely, his relationship with Merrin’s mourning father gives us a conflicting perspective, which I think was an excellent way to create a sense of confusion as to who the killer truly was.
The standout role would have to go to Heather Graham as the fame-hungry waitress. She, in my opinion, was able to really convey the theme through her unscrupulous characteristics. Alas, all would be well if it ended well. Here is where things start to go down hill for me. It is evident that Alexandre Aja is well versed in the thriller genre, having directed one of my personal favorites “High Tension,” but this film needed a certain, Je ne sais pas, finesse.
Side-note: If you are a fan of really gritty thrillers that rely entirely on character development and you have not seen “High Tension,” then rent it TODAY! It is a game changer.
Aja was also the force behind “Piranhas 3-D” and “The Hills Have Eyes.” The problem is that this was intended to be a genre-bending film. “Horns” is really designed to be a convergence of Fantasy and Horror-Thriller with a sprinkling of romance. Aja seemed to struggle with this concept as the film abruptly changes format for the worse about two quarters of the way through.
What starts as a thriller founded in hard-reality quickly departs to a fantasy realm advancing characters and their assumed interactions with no explanation. One moment Ig is drowning his sorrows like many people would with meaningless sex and lots of booze. The next moment he is a horned devil incarnate wildly spreading chaos upon his growingly twisted town. As two separate movies I could see this working, but as one film it is so dramatically disjointed that if you stop watching for 10 minutes and came back, you would think you walked into a totally different movie.
Still, I am of the opinion that this film was really well acted and with brilliant source material, but the lack of a cohesive vision on behalf of the director will leave audiences both confused and dissatisfied.
Excluding the confusing train-wreck of a third act, “Horns” was pretty damned entertaining. The small-town setting was ideal for the concept, as this would have played out very differently if set in Manhattan or some other densely populated metropolitan area. The tree-house hangout evokes much nostalgia for the youthful-adventure based films of the late 80’s and early 90’s. It quickly gives the audience a sense of a youthful freedom enjoyed by Ig and Merrin and the immediate sense of loss that follows her death.
I also enjoyed the flashback scenes. They really added some depth to each of the characters through the exploration of their overlapping back-stories. If you pay close enough attention you can even spot what will be the ultimate resolution of the film mid 2nd act.
An prime issue that may have contributed to the failed finale is that they attempted to incorporate so much depth and development in the 1st two acts, that by the third act they had little to no time left to flesh out a proper ending.
Similar to the oddity that was Kevin Smith’s Horror-Comedy “Tusk,” “Horns” may still become a cult classic film. Given the right spin and expectations this film summons a few dark-humored laughs and some ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ in terms of what Ig’s horns can make people do. On the other hand, the disaster of a 3rd act makes it a partially palatable experience at best. One and done.
Despite Daniel Radcliffe’s valiant effort to shed his boyish image, he ultimately fails to take the devil by the “Horns” in this good-idea-done-wrong horror-comedy. Watch it once, but don't seek any deeper meaning from this shallow rendition of Hell.