movie review – HORNS

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Good horror movies are hard to come by. Now-a-days most of these movies focus on gore or ghosts. HORNS brings back the morality tale. It brings back Old Word horror which focused on demons and the devil. This odd little genre movie also provides a lot of dark humour. If you’re looking for good horror, you just may have found a hidden gem here with HORNS.

First off, this is based on a book by JOE HILL. Sound familiar? No? He’s the son of STEPHEN KING. More familiar? Much like another artist DUNCAN JONES (director of MOON & SOURCE CODE, son of DAVID BOWIE), Hill doesn’t rely on his father’s name to get recognition. However, Hill also has that joyous sense of perverse black comedy.

DANIEL RADCLIFFE (that’s right, HARRY POTTER) stars in this surprisingly good horror flick. Let’s just say he’s playing against type. Something he has done rather well since that children fantasy franchise ended. The last picture I saw him in was KILL YOUR DARLINGS. His role in that “biopic” was rather racy and controversial. It’s another hidden gem worth adding to your list.

In HORNS, Radcliffe plays a young man whose girlfriend has been murdered. It just so happens she died after they had an argument in public. He is the number one suspect. We even wonder if he is responsible. For some reason, actual horns have sprouted from his forehead (on either side of that lightning scar… jokes). What seems like a cheap aesthetic gimmick quickly becomes a supernatural plot point.

It seems like with these mysterious horns he can control the will of other people. He seems to lower their inhibitions. People seem to feel compelled to tell them their deepest darkest secrets. They seem to tell him the brutally honest truth, no matter how badly this might affect themselves.

At first these strange occurrences are played for laughs. The trailer showed a scene where he gets news reporters to fight themselves, simply because he told them to. There’s an interesting thread there. Are they doing what he commands? OR are they doing what they really WANT to do anyways? Do Radcliffe’s horns just drop the veil of politeness?

The movie is much more than situational comedy based on this power. It seems like he may have been granted these special powers to solve the murder mystery of who slayed his girlfriend. The film spends some time in the past, sprinkling about clues to the actual murderer. The astute observer may note that these hints also point a finger to our main man, Radcliffe.

There are several suspects focused on at various times, assuring the mystery never grows stale. By the time we get some answers our grand finale stage is set-up for something truly gothic and epic. I won’t ruin the mysteries or climax here. I will just say it’s well worth the discovery. The pay-off is something rarely seen on-screen.

Daniel Radcliffe delivers quite the performance. He must weigh several elements against one another, while maintaining an American accent. I feel like he’s nailed the comedic moments, and more than adequate on the action segments. He delivers a layered dynamic performance. When emotional notes are required, he brings harmony and resonance. For a horror movie, his character is multi-dimensional and definitely empathetic.

JUNO TEMPLE plays the slain girlfriend. We spend most of our time with her in the flashbacks, obviously. She more than meets the requirements of a desirable beauty. The scene where she is backlit by the sun in the treehouse are truly seductive and alluring, but never exploitive. We are sold love rather than lust. And I bought it.

The heartbreaking tragedy of our hero is fully conveyed due to Temple’s presence. She has to run the gammut of emotions as well. By the time her murder is revealed she must demonstrate a range of emotions. And she did. Oh boy. She did. It was especially emotional given the crossing of genres here. I don’t normally care this much about characters in a HORROR movie. Usually, it’s just the thrill of the roller-coaster ride that makes a horror flick fun for me. With HORNS, I actually cared.

While I give a lot of credit to Joe Hill for creating this content, I feel like I must also highlight the talent of director ALEXANDER AJA. This French genius / mad scientist caught my attention with his film debut HAUTE TENSION. I feel like HIGH TENSION (as known in North America) set the bar very high for contemporary horror. I have yet to see a better horror movie since. Maybe I’ll write a piece about that true hidden gem later on.

Aja crossed over with his remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES and PIRANHA 3D, and his producing on the remake of MANIAC recently. Like the French film says, Aja can milk the tension. He can brew suspense and horror like no other modern genre filmmaker. But as can be seen with P3D especially, he knows how to have fun. Whether it’s delivering on the gore with amazing practical effects, or with straight up dialogue and physical comedy.

HORNS has a very strong visual appeal from the opening shot. Everything seems to be thought out from an imagery standpoint. This is not a slapped together horror created to rake in money from a low budget. HORNS is a morality tale.

When you combine the writer, the director, and theses actors you get a genre picture above most others. You will be shocked. You will be scared. You will be grossed out. But you will also laugh. You will also care. Find HORNS when you’re in the mood for horror. Watch it with some friends, and yell at the screen. Try and figure out who-dunnit. You’ll enjoy yourselves for sure.

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What did you think? Was HORNS the best horror film of this decade? Or was it not actually scary enough for you?

Was the movie just too weird? Is the premise too hard to accept? Is the humour too strange?

Is Daniel Radcliffe here to stay? Will he have a career beyond HARRY POTTER?

What do you think of JUNO TEMPLE? Have you seen her work before? Did she ellicit the same emotional response in you as she did me?

What do you think of the imagery and director, Aja? Have you seen HIGH TENSION?

Have you seen some of the other controversial new-wave French horror flicks like MARTYRS or L’INTERIEUR?

What do horror movies need to next to keep you entertained? Are you tired of the found footage stuff? Or ghosty hauntings?

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