Alexandre Aja’s Horns was a movie I was very much looking forward to because all the elements seemed promising. You have one of my favorite working horror directors (Aja, getting serious again after Piranha 3D), you have a broad and talented cast (including Dan Radcliffe continuing his attempt to de-Harry Potter himself), and a story based on a well-reviewed novel (written by Joe Hill, who is not quite to my taste, but apparently to everyone else’s). So was it any good? Yes, it was good. But it had some flaws.
The plot is pretty high-concept. Ig Parrish (Daniel Radcliffe) is accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple). One morning, he wakes up sprouting a pair of horns that makes people inexplicably confess their secrets to him, and gives him extraordinary powers of persuasion. Armed with these new capabilities, Ig sets out to find Merrin’s real murderer.
The story is decent, although I’m not sure that there’s really any mystery to the proceedings, as I had identified the explanation for Merrin’s murder within the first twenty minutes. Most of the film’s deviant fun comes from watching Ig put his powers to work. Whether it’s the local loose woman confessing that she wants to eat an entire box full of donuts because no one loves her, or Ig’s mother admitting that she wishes he would just disappear from her life, the revelations come fast and thick for our hapless protagonist. Some of it is humorous, such as when he coaxes news reporters into an all-out brawl, and some of it is not, such as a scene where he forces an individual to down a bottle of booze and an array of narcotics all at once.
The entire film was shot in British Columbia, and it’s a very scenic movie. Everything looks pretty, and just a little sinister in a fairy tale fashion. And of course, given that this is an Alexandre Aja film, the gore effects are in good form here, including a shotgun blast to the face, some gruesome burns, and a colorful use of Ig’s horns.
For the acting, everyone delivers good performances across the cast. Daniel Radcliffe is pissy and nihilistic, but appropriately heart-broken as Ig, although the actor’s curse is that even when he delivers in a performance, the viewer still thinks, “Why is Harry Potter so angry right now?” Juno Temple is all right as Merrin, although she is not really given enough to do to explain why pretty much the entire town is hopelessly in love with her. This could be intentional, as it’s probably better to have viewers unsure why a character is loved by everyone, than to have them actively hate a character that is supposed to be loved by everyone. But it is still a little strange. Max Minghella doesn’t do a whole lot as an attorney friend of Ig’s, but the highly underrated Joe Anderson pops up in a good supporting turn as Ig’s musician older brother. There are also a few more veteran actors scattered throughout, such as James Remar, David Morse, and Heather Graham, all of whom have memorable supporting roles.
If I had to pinpoint a weakness in the movie, I would say it’s the fact that despite a game cast, and beautiful filming, it’s a very deliberate movie. There’s not, in my opinion, a lot of propulsion here and while you won’t be bored, it’s not the kind of movie you’re dying to watch again anytime soon. However, that being said, I think its visual flair, distinctive rural northern setting, and cool makeup/gore effects make it worth a view by horror fans.