Kyle J. Steenblik

Daniel Radcliffe is enthralling in Horns

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Horns is a magnificently dark story filled with performances that kept me transfixed.  As the film progressed, the tone of the film grew more sinister to the point where Daniel Radcliffe was simply chilling.  This is the first film director Alexandre Aja did not write himself, and might be his best feature film to date.  The screenplay, written by Keith Bunin, is an adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel by the same name.  Being unfamiliar with the source material, I cannot say how good an adaptation it is, but it was a very effective script, although at times it suffers an over abundance of subtlety.

Subtlety in a script is not a bad thing, but it assumes the audience has put pieces together themselves.  That is a dangerous gable to make multiple times with a story.  Bunin’s script very nearly goes off the edge here; unfortunately, some audience members may not hang on and be lost along the way.  The payoff for those that manage to hang on is well worth the early confusion.

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After Merrin Williams (Juno Temple) is found dead in the woods her boyfriend, Ignatius “Ig” Perris (Daniel Radcliffe) is the sole suspect of her brutal rape and murder.  Fighting against a town convinced of his guilt even he begins to doubt himself.  When the world already sees you as the devil, it may be time to look the part.  Ignatius wakes up after a drunken one-night stand with a childhood friend with horns growing from his head.  More distressing than the horns is the reaction they solicit from everyone.  Nobody is troubled by the horns, and they seem compelled to speak their darkest thoughts to him, the unfiltered truth.  Ig also discovers with the horns people will do what he tells them to do, but only if they really wanted to in the first place.  These events further push him to a breaking point when his friend and attorney Lee Tourneau (Joe Anderson) cannot see the horns, nor do they affect him.  Soon enough Ig realized the horns are real, and he begins to use them to solve Merrin’s murder, and punish those responsible.

While I found the story intriguing, captivating even, the real takeaway with Horns is the performance of Daniel Radcliffe.  This film and this role are very different from anything he has ever done on screen.  It is always a very pleasant surprise when a very recognizable actor can disappear into a character.  It is a problem all actors face when they become so well known from a single franchise.  Some actors fight to the end to avoid this pigeonholing, even going so far as to avoid films in the same genre.  While others just embrace the work.  I appreciate both perspective, and I love to see actors grow.  What I am trying to say, in a very long winded way is Daniel Radcliffe is no longer Harry Potter and I was very impressed with is performance, and would recommend this film simply for that.

Horns is a complex story filled with dark and thrilling performances, but stubbles with a script that can be overly subtle.  4 out of 5

Horns
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Written by: Keith Bunin, Based on the novel by Joe Hill
Starring: Juno Temple, Daniel Radcliffe, Heather Graham, Kelli Garner, David Morse, James Remar, Joe Anderson, Max Minghella
Rated R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, disturbing violence including a sexual assault, language and drug use.
Opening in theatres October 31, also available on iTunes.

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