Horns (2013) / Fantasy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, disturbing violence including a sexual assault, language and drug use
Running Time: 120 min.
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, James Remar, Heather Graham, Kelli Garner, Kathleen Quinlan, David Morse, Sabrina Carpenter, Dylan Schmid
Director: Alexandre Aja
Screenplay: Keith Bunin (based on the novel by Joe Hill)
Review published October 16, 2014
Horns is adapted from the 2010 novel of the same name by Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King. It stars Daniel Radcliffe (What If, Kill Your Darlings) as Ignatius Perrish (nickname: Ig), who has become something of the small town pariah when his girlfriend Merrin (Temple, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) is found murdered and he is the prime suspect. Not long after, devilish horns begin to sprout from his head. He wants them off, but their removal proves futile, then useful once he learns that they grant him paranormal powers to draw out information and bad behavior among others, though they don't exactly remember his protuberances or their confessions long after Ig leaves the scene. With his new tools, he aims to get to the bottom of the mystery regarding Merrin's death, and also get revenge on the perpetrator(s) unlucky enough to be found out.
For the first hour or so, Horns is modest, irreverent fun, with a tongue-in-cheek style not too dissimilar from TV shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in terms of quirky characters and snarky banter among them. While the movie sticks to its initial premise of Ig trying to solve a murder mystery, it is entertaining in its b-movie fashion. However, the lack of adequate explanation of the source of Ig's powers is frustrating enough for viewers without also piling on lack of explanation for the motivating factors of most characters within the movie. It appears to exist in its own pocket universe where there aren't many laws of logic to follow, asking us to go with the proverbial flow from the outset without establishing that we're supposed to be watching just a genre lark.
The film outstays its welcome by at least 30 minutes, clocking in at a creaky two hours, mostly due to a few lengthy flashbacks to Ig's childhood that, while not done poorly, are only of value in order to bring poignancy to the events that would transpire later. Unfortunately, that poignancy is fumbled greatly by director Aja (Piranha 3D, High Tension), whose patience with the material wears thin and he goes back to the stuff he has become known for, namely violence, torture, rape, gore, and a sense of visual style that doesn't lend well to tragic drama. While I found the first half watchable, I absolutely abhor the blood-drenched second half of this film, which erodes every shred of build-up in the course of going for a horror-movie vibe.
Nevertheless, even if it is more enjoyable in mystery mode than in revenge thriller, the culprit won't be much of a surprise, which makes even that aspect a disappointment. Despite decent performances by an game cast, as well as a handsome look, due to characters we begin to dislike and actions we abhor even more, Horns ends up being not much worth tooting about.
©2014 Vince Leo