Horns (2013): Harry Potter & the Devil Inside

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There is this exquisite moment in Horns where, in the haven of their treehouse love nest, Daniel Racliffe’s Ig Perrish watches Juno Temple’s Merrin dance for him in the streaming sunlight. Merrin practically glows as the light envelops her and reveals her naked curves through the translucent fabric of her dusky pink dress, while a love-struck Ig watches on adoringly. David Bowie’s Heroes fills the air as the two make love in the sunshine, like a couple alone in the world, unaware of anyone but each other. Radcliffe and Temple are beautiful together, so beautiful that one might almost wish this was a story about beauty, happiness and the enduring power of love…but this is not that type of movie.

horns6Not long after, Merrin is raped and murdered at the foot of that same tree, and due to a seemingly random set of circumstances, Ig is the prime suspect. So, that’s a piss off, seeing as how the now grieving and broken Ig shows absolutely no sign of suspect behavior or guilt…but it’s a movie so, logic suspends itself…

Directed by extreme horror demi-god Alexandre Aja (High Tension, Mirrors) and based on a fairly decent novel of the same name by Stephen King’s spawn Joe Hill, Horns is, at it’s core, a love story. A tragic, fucked up love story filled with serpents, death and hell-fire, but a love story nonetheless. Specifically a story about the love that Ig had for Merrin, and how that love and the need to discover the one who brutally ended her life leads him on a path to hell.

As an aside, did anyone else notice that Harry Potter is kinda hot (and short, really short) and also turning into one heck of an actor?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Radcliffe, but having learned my lesson about short men (hello, Elijah Wood in Maniac), I went into it ready to be impressed. Pleasantly enough I was not let down, in fact, I emerged from Horns a solid fan of Mr. Radcliffe’s abilities…even if the movie wasn’t in itself all that great.

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Horns is not bad, not really, the dialogue is good, it’s beautifully shot amidst the gorgeous scenery of British Columbia and the cast, besides almost all being rather great to look at, are also phenomenal to watch (Juno Temple and supporting actress Kelli Garner are way underused). Radcliffe in particular is just fantastic as the tragic anti-hero who has lost his center and is drifting aimlessly towards destruction; that is, until the horns appear.

Fun Fact: I always wanted horns growing up, I’m not sure what the root of that desire is, Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent maybe, but the whole thing was always intensely appealing to me…not much has changed, only now I kinda want wings too.

horns5Right…so one morning Ig wakes to find that a mysterious set of horns have sprouted out of his skull, and with them the ability to unconsciously compel others into spilling their most sinfully dark desires. There are some genuine laughs to be had in watching the confessions pour out of saints and sinners alike, Heather Graham’s overly perky waitress is my favorite by far.

And so it goes, as his abilities grow (along with the horns) Ig’s search for Merrin’s killer becomes more and more intense until…well, you see where this is going right?

I don’t like to spoil new movies so I’ll let you find out for yourselves; although, in truth, it’s pretty obvious from early on in the movie. Predictability aside, Horns is actually kind of fun, especially once Ig begins to embrace his curse, picks up a pitchfork and gets cozy with some snakes (my reaction to that: I knew you belonged in Slitherin, Potter). Daniel Radcliffe plays a damn good devil and has enough charisma to make this a very watchable movie…but let’s face it “watchable” isn’t usually considered a compliment.

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There’s a lot going on here, what with the murder, the mystery, the horns, the endless confessions, the bright childhood flashbacks, a coming of age tale; if you’re like me, you’ll probably find yourself wondering how many separate films could have been made from bits and pieces of this one. And despite everything that’s happening, the movie is kinda slow…well, really slow, and more than a little jumbled. It’s juggling too many plotlines and emotions and the tone changes so often it’s like the filmmakers didn’t know if they were making a comedy, a drama or a horror film; in spite of all of it’s potential, Horns is a bit of mess.

You know what? I like a mess, I fucking love a good mess. Some of my favorite movies are so messy they’re barely comprehensible; so a mess I could have dealt with, what I really didn’t like was how squeaky clean the core of the story was. The Devil gives Ig Perrish horns, and besides a non-fatal snake attack and forcing a guy to OD, Ig stays so frikin…moral. Am I crazy for wishing they had gone balls to the wall evil with this character? He should have done horrible, unforgivable things in the search for Merrin’s killer, he’s a devil/demon/whatever, he could have gotten his hands dirty at least once…right?

Horns4In the few (very few) moments we see something evil spark in Ig Perrish’s eyes, I saw the possibility of a great, intense horror film about a devil (in every sense of the word) out to avenge the death of his love…but this is not that movie. In the end, Horns has no real nerve; no evil or need for bloody vengeance overtook Ig, the horns were not transformative, they corrupted everyone except him.

At the beginning of the movie Ig tells us in a voice over: “No one is born evil but sometimes when you go through hell, the only way out is to walk deeper into the fire.” There were some good intentions here, and the biggest problem with Horns is not that it didn’t try to go into the fire, it’s that someone chickened out and doused the damn thing first.

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