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Fantastic Fest Review: HORNS Could Be a Genre Movie Gateway Drug

Alexander Aja’s Horns brings Daniel Radcliffe out of Harry Potter’s shadow in a fun, intro to crime thrillers adaptation of Joe Hill’s eponymous novel. The film sees Radcliffe’s Ig sprout horns while searching for his girlfriends murderer. Horns plays like a neutered Twin Peaks for the Twilight set, but that’s most definitely not a bad thing.

Supernatural thrillers are now some of the most popular television shows, movies, and reading material that young women are consuming. If Twilight did that for us, that’s a good thing. Great TV shows like Supernatural, Lost Girl, The Vampire Diaries, and books (and their film adaptations) like The Hunger Games and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles are continuing to grow new audiences in the wake of the end of the tales of Bella Swan. Horns is the type of populist film that could easily sway the werewolf and vampire-hungry audience into watching David Lynch films.

The start of the film finds Ig (Daniel Radcliffe) the sole suspect in the murder of his long time love Merrin (Juno Temple). Everyone in town thinks Ig committed the crime, despite constant, emphatic protest from the accused. After quietly witnessing a town memorial ceremony where he’s decried as sub-human, Ig lashes out, desecrating the tributes that have been placed where his girlfriend was killed. Finishing the evening with a one-night stand with a long-time friend, our self-loathing lothario wakes to find the titular horns we’ve been waiting for.

At the same time the horns sprout, people who get near Ig begin to act strangely. Anyone who comes into contact with Ig begins confessing their unsolicited darkest secrets as well as following any commands he gives them. He quickly finds out how extreme these new found powers can be when he visits a doctor’s office to remove the horns. Christine Willes shows up for a wonderfully unintentional nod to Reaper as her receptionist character talks to Radcliffe from behind a glass barrier. It doesn’t take long for Ig to quickly hate hearing what people think of him, escpecially after even his parents come clean that they think their son is guilty.

The only person who stands up for Ig’s innocence is Lee (Max Minghella), Ig’s lawyer and best friend. Lee is also the only person who can’t see Ig’s horns or lose control to him. Ig concludes that it’s because Lee is the best person he knows. Thinking that he only affects the evil, Ig takes the hunt for Merrin’s killer into his own hands.

From here the film becomes both a revenge thriller and a murder mystery as Ig works his way through memories and suspects. With each progressive suspect and witness, the film gets a bit weirder and, in this case, strange is great. From a narcissistic waitress (Heather Graham) to a jazz playing, drug-addled brother, the characters reek of a damn fine cup of coffee. But the film doesn’t drift from it’s path long; as much as the characters might be weird and Lynch-esque, the plot pushes forward on the schedule of a train.

Most of the scares in the film play more toward laughs than genuine gasps. Ultimately, though, there are more than enough shocking moments to warrant calling this a cross between a dark comedy and a supernatural thriller rather than a true horror film. A great performance out of Daniel Radcliffe is the highlight of a fun movie that could be an entire fanbase’s gateway drug to the truly bizarre ends of genre cinema. And that’s alright by me.

Burrito Rating: 3 out of 5 Burritos

3 burritos

Horns comes to theaters on October 31.

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  1. Common Sense says:

    Half the stuff your are giving twilight credit for was around before that filth. Also BUFFFFYY!!

  2. Leah says:

    Can we talk about how randomly gory it got at the end? That shit came out of NOWHERE. 

  3. “the characters reek of a damn fine cup of coffee” I see what you did there. *tips hat and orders pie*

  4. Derek Read says:

    Really? Twilight did that for us? Not Buffy? Sounds like this is closer to Buffy to me.

    • Brian Walton says:

      The current content vacuum for the audience I’m speaking of is most definitely Twilight. Buffy is almost 20 years old.

      • OddOneThree says:

        Supernatural is on its 10th season and Buffy ran for 7 years with Angel running for 5, 2 past Buffy. Supernatural is closer connected to them than Twilight.

  5. lasercat says:

    Please don’t attribute the success of supernatural thrillers to Twilight.  That is all.