How would you react if people were totally frank with you? It seems like a problem with a fairly obvious answer, but think about it for a moment. No filter. None whatsoever. Also it would have no ending. No more small talk or inane chatter. An interesting premise for a movie. This is where Ig (Daniel Radcliffe) finds himself in the film Horns.
Ig finds himself in a bit of a black situation. He is accused of killing his girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple) and is subject to trial by television with the media camped outside his house demanding to know how he got away with it. He wakes up after a rough night to find out that he is developing horns on his forehead. Seeking medical advice alerts him to something strange. Strangers are telling him their most intimate and brutally honest thoughts and asking his advice. It becomes apparent to him that it has to do with the horns. Soon his family is disowning him due to their forced honesty of their thoughts on the murder. Ig resolves to use this new found curse in order to find the real murderer and clear his name.
Daniel Radcliffe has made some interesting choices of role after his exploits s the boy wizard. He has steered clear of the obvious mainstream cinema and instead taken on a wide variety of parts in low budget and independent films that have helped to build his reputation as an actor of some range. He is very good in the lead role. His character goes from a guy who is truly in love and really just drifting to something akin to a monster. He gauges his performance just right as his world quickly deteriorates. Even his American accent is passable (to my ears).
Unfortunately the rest of the cast does not come up to the same standard. It is quite possible that the characters were not as well developed on the page and it was a real stretch for the actors to make anything significant of them. They are the definition of supporting turns, only there to further the plot and none particularly stand out as much as Radcliffe. As the film revolves around the main character, this does not lead to much of a problem. It is just a shame to waste the talent on the screen in what amounts to plot devices.
The film draws on the novel of the same name by Joe Hill. It straddles a number of genres as the story progresses. It is part romantic drama which leads into a murder mystery with elements of the wrong man out for justice. From there it just gets weird, which isn’t a bad thing really. Under the direction of Alexandre Aja, the film has a grungy and downbeat feel. Even the flashback sequences, in contrast to normal convention, are dark and foreboding. It all lends a slightly off kilter feel to the proceedings and enhances the atmosphere. What is notable is the shift from comedic to violence. It often happens very quickly and unexpectedly. This is not a film for young Harry Potter fans as the violence is brutal and is usually accompanied by a good deal of colourful language.
We do not get presented with any sympathetic characters. Each one has a dark secret which comes to the fore when they are in contact with Ig. These characters represent different personality types who, no matter how they present themselves in public, have the same basic instincts. Of course some of them don’t need Ig’s prompting and they are outright hostile and nasty in their every day life. Religious symbolism is prominent throughout the film to reinforce and sometimes subvert the preconceptions of what is good and evil. Ig of course is the holder of a pair of horns, a well recognised sign of a devil. His weapon of choice is a pitchfork and he has found allies in the form of the serpent. On the other side, Merrin’s cross pops up to represent all that is good. It is composed of gold and can be seen to be pure and a symbol of hope.
Overall a reasonably entertaining take on the revenge story. A strong lead performance carries the film above what could have been an average tale. Recommended.