Horns is a certainly a bit of an odd film, not least because it can’t quite decide what it is – comedy, horror, fable, fantasy, thriller, murder mystery, drama – flitting between them all with little sense of consistency. It’s probably this difficulty in pigeonholing the movie that has limited its audience so far, but in many ways that’s a shame, as while very uneven it is oddly entertaining and just a little beguiling.
Daniel Radcliffe is Ig Perrish, whose girlfriend (Juno Temple) has been murdered and everyone in his small town has decided he’s the killer, despite there not being enough evidence to charge him with anything. Things get a little bizarre when he wakes up one morning to discover he’s grown horns out of his forehead, and that he now has the power to get people to admit to all the things they’d normally keep hidden away (he discovers a lot of these things involve what they’d really like to do to him, as they believe he’s gotten away with murder).
Ig quickly realises that this bizarre turn of events may give him the opportunity to find who the real murderer is, as if he gets to the right person, they won’t be able to help themselves but to confess.
It’s an odd idea but a potentially fascinating one. Horns knows that it has massive amounts of potential and it certainly tries to explore Ig’s horny problem, even if it does it in a rather uneven way. One moments it’s playing it as broad comedy where it feels almost as if it’s fallen into a Kafka-esque absurdist comedy fantasy, and the next it’s turned much darker and more disturbing, before throwing in some slightly confused religious ideas about vengeance.
Horns never quite figures out what it’s doing with all these things, but I nevertheless enjoyed it, helped by Radcliffe, who handles the movie’s oddities extremely well and keeps you on side no matter what weirdness is surrounding him. It’s also true that while the murder mystery isn’t exactly the most complex of whodunits, it’s well done and acts as a good spine to help keep the movie on track. It also has quite a few extremely well done scenes, particularly those involving Ig having no choice but to hear the unvarnished truth from all those he meets.
Things go completely over the top at the end when it tries to bring its themes and ideas to fruition. Because it’s not 100% sure what those ideas are, it comes across as overblown and more than a little silly. Thankfully what’s gone before is good enough that this isn’t a complete disaster.
It’s also a little odd that despite being set in America, it has a largely British cast (Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Joe Anderson & Max Minghella), a French director (Alexandre Aja) and was filmed in Canada. It’s certainly very international but it is a little peculiar.
Ultimately despite being enjoyable it’s difficult not to feel that Horns is a little bit of a missed opportunity as the premise offers so much potential for a movie that is both entertaining, complex and intellectually fascinating. It manages the first of those but rather botches the other two despite putting in plenty of effort.
Overall Verdict: Horns has quite a few problems and could have done with a stronger sense of what it was doing and why its oddities are necessary, but even so it pulls you in and keeps you wondering what’s go to happen even while you wonder whether you ought to care.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac