Film Review: Horns (★★)

horns_ver3What a disappointment. The ingredients are all here for a memorable horror comedy/mystery, or at the very least a cult classic in the making. Unfortunately, the mixture is way off and Horns is too often a confused hybrid tale that can’t figure out what on Earth it wants to be. Director Alexandre Aja is no stranger to horror of course, having become a bit of a master of sorts within the genre, but he’s not nearly successful with his integration of comedy. As such, the script by Keith Bunin, which is already flawed, is poorly handled and the tone is just all over the place. To be fair, the cast does what they can with the material, particularly Daniel Radcliffe, but it’s a bit of a losing battle. There are times when the odd tone does create some enjoyable sequences, but too often things just don’t add up to any sort of a satisfying product. The central plot has a bit of potential and individual moments work well enough, but most of the time you’re left scratching your head. I was hoping to have fun with this flick, but it wound up letting me down. For a Halloween time title, Horns isn’t the worst you can do, but it really is a cut below and far from the best scary movie option in theaters.

When we first meet Ig Perrish (Radcliffe), he’s waking up in the midst of a living nightmare. His girlfriend Merrin Williams (Juno Temple) has been murdered and he’s the one and only suspect. He’s broken up over her death, but just about everyone in town, including her father Dale Williams (David Morse), is trying to string him up. Even his parents Derrick (James Remar) and Lydia Perrish (Kathleen Quinlan) seem skeptical. Only his brother Terry (Joe Anderson) and best friend Lee Tourneau (Max Minghella) are entertaining his innocence. Then, after a night of drunken indiscretion with longtime friend Glenna Shepherd (Kelli Garner), he awakes with horns growing out of his head. Not only that, but attempts to remove them fail miserably and whenever someone comes into contact with him, they compulsively begin to tell the truth. As such, he begins to see how folks really feel about him, while also beginning to try and get to the bottom of who really killed Merrin. It all gets progressively more ridiculous, building to a conclusion that makes just about zero sense.

horns-film-review-watch-new-trailer-for-horns-full-of-rage-and-revengeDaniel Radcliffe has been seeking to reestablish himself in the business in the aftermath of playing Harry Potter, so between this and the witty romantic comedy What If, he’s on a very new path. This is the darkest role he’s ever taken, one that requires him to go to some bleak places. To his credit, he’s more than up to the task, creating a character that’s hard to like but also one you want to follow. There’s not a whole lot to his character, but he does his best to make it as compelling a role as possible. In her limited screen time, Juno Temple is basically asked to play the same role she always plays, and while it won’t test her, she’s solid enough. The scenes between Radcliffe and Temple are cute in their own quirky way. Max Minghella gets to do something a bit different, while the likes of Joe Anderson, Kelli Garner, James Remar, and Kathleen Quinlan are basically wasted. I did like David Morse in his small part, but he’s not in the movie enough to be a difference maker. The rest of the cast includes essentially a cameo from Heather Graham, along with the likes of Mitchell Kummen and Sabrina Carpenter, to name a few. Still, this is Radcliffe’s movie. If only there was more to it than just giving him horns and a mystery to solve.

Normally I appreciate the films of Alexandre Aja, but here he’s unable to make it work. To be fair, a lot of the problems here stem from Keith Bunin’s script (based on the novel by Joe Hill), but Aja compounds it by mixing tones far too often. For example, the soundtrack is more suited to a teen rom com than something like this, so it just never fits. Bunin under develops everyone, giving Aja very little to work with. Still, with this cast and Aja’s visually eye, things should have been better than this.

If you’re low on horror titles to check out this weekend, you won’t be ruining your Halloween mood by watching Horns, but you’ll probably be let down by the final product nonetheless. Radcliffe fans might be curious enough to give it a shot, but it’s just a disappointing and mediocre movie that has no idea what it wants to be. In the end, it winds up being nothing. Horns isn’t terrible, but it’s not good either.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!