Directed by Alexandre Aja.
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Heather Graham, David Morse, James Remar and Max Minghella.
In the aftermath of his girlfriend’s mysterious death, a young man awakens to strange horns sprouting from his temples.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect about Alexandre Aja’s (High Tension, Piranha 3D) latest directorial feature Horns, is that after watching it I still have no idea as to what genre to classify the movie under. Even though the premise centers on Ignatius Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) pent up with rage seeking for answers regarding the mysterious murder of his childhood sweetheart Merrin (Juno Temple), it’s also darkly humorous. So much so that it feels like you’re watching two different movies that are tonally completely at odds with each other.
On one hand, you have Iggy using the horns – sprouted from his head in the wake of his girlfriend’s tragic death – and the powerful ability of persuasion that comes with them as a blessing in disguise to piece together clues, while on the other you have multiple delightfully weird scenes of idiosyncratic citizens blurting out their comically darkest secrets. Said citizens then usually go on to ask Iggy for permission to indulge in these sinful acts, like pigging out on doughnuts or physically hitting a bratty child in a doctor’s waiting room. Is this a dark comedy or a serious mystery with fantastical elements? Apparently it’s both, but in attempting to do too much Horns comes across disjointed and not as effective as it could be.
Here’s the kicker though: It’s the whodunnit murder mystery that is what’s holding the movie back. Reason being is that when Horns is executing black comedy, it is wickedly funny. There is a scene where Iggy gets fed up with the media pestering him on his role in Merrin’s disappearance, to which he says “If you all beat the fuck out of each other I’ll give the winner an exclusive story” to which a reporter immediately responds by uppercutting a woman in the face, causing a full-blown brawl to break out set to the Marilyn Manson rendition of Personal Jesus. It’s an absolute riot of a scene, but most importantly puts on display the way Iggy should have used his gift to better blend the film’s tones, instead of having them exist miles apart.
Daniel Radcliffe does give a career best performance, but it’s all in vain because the mystery arc amounts to nothing more then cliches and out of place climactic showdowns that are further brought down with inexplicable plot devices and terrible CGI. The last 30 minutes of the movie are a mess that take the narrative far too serious for its own good. At least during the first 90 minutes the story doesn’t embrace cliches, meaning there is an a little bit of an emotional connection watching Iggy grieve and demand justice. The only real set-back in Radcliffe’s performance is that he sometimes delivers lines with a high-pitched whiny voice making his threats hard to treat serious, but the way he carries himself and sells his innocence and depression is impressive.
There are also numerous flashback scenes to the childhood of our cast which is supposed to invest us more into the relationship of Iggy and Merrin, and naturally her untimely demise, but much like the actual investigation it isn’t that entertaining. Both arcs imply a lot of religious subtext, but it’s not explored in detail enough to symbolize anything substantial. Horns does some laughably ridiculous things with a cross of sentimental valve to Iggy towards the ending, and generally just feels like plot devices were made up as the writer (or novelist) went along. The only theme that somewhat gets conveyed properly is the old adage of sometimes you have to go through Hell to get to Heaven, or be evil to do good.
I know it sounds like I’m negatively harping on Horns quite a bit, but it’s not because the movie is outright terrible. Horns simply feels like a misfire that could have been an awesome mash-up of black comedy, sleuthing, and fantastical romantic drama, all with provocative commentary on religion and the never-ending discussion of good vs evil. Alexandre Aja nails the dark humor and visual aesthetics of Iggy’s new look, but can’t complete the package save for two really well done emotional scenes – Iggy’s parents under persuasion hypnosis spilling out their true feelings of their son, and a freaky drug trip. For those two gripping sequences though are also scenes that shatter the scale of stupidity, like Iggy walking casually away from a burning bar with no questions asked later.
For as tonally inconsistent as Horns is though it does deserve credit for genuinely being something way outside the box. It’s all-out zaniness stops the proceedings from ever getting too boring, and it’s only the final act that is stupid and feels completely uninspired. Horns is ultimately an ambitious film trying to be too many different things at once, and one that doesn’t embrace its strongest asset: devilishly twisted humor.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. He currently writes for Flickering Myth, We Got This Covered, and Wrestle Enigma. Follow me on Twitter.