TIFF 2013: Horns Review


Daniel Radcliffe as Ig Perrish in “Horns.”

Ig Perrish wakes up on the floor of his dirty apartment with an empty bottle and a rotten hangover. He opens his curtain windows to let in some light, and there’s a media circus on his front lawn. We can see signs that say “You should go to Hell” and variations thereof. Ig dejectedly sighs (he knows why the media is there) and closes the curtain. Just another day in paradise.

Horns begins in media res, and it starts the film on shaky ground. Besides a perfunctory opening scene of Ig and his girlfriend lying on a picnic blanket in happier times, we have no background into who these characters are, or the incident that has occurred for Ig to become so vilified in the community. Don’t worry though, cringe-inducing expository dialogue clears everything up (with such gems like: “I guess the radio station doesn’t like accused murderers as DJs” and “I like having Lee, one of my best friends, as my lawyer, because he believes in my innocence and didn’t tell me to plea bargain”). The film makes the mistake of having to pull double-duty by getting the audience up to speed with what has happened in the plot so far while at the same time introducing characters that we’re meeting for the first time. It’s not very cinematic.

After that inauspicious beginning, and once Ig grows the titular horns, the film finds its rhythm and becomes an enjoyable supernatural mystery. The innocence of Ig in the murder of his girlfriend is never questioned (because he professes his undying love for her) and the film carefully peels back the layers of that fateful night, twisting the story in unexpected ways that would have been far less interesting if the film was played in chronological order.

The emergence of Ig’s horns also provides him with special powers – the ability to persuade individuals to do his bidding and their overwhelming desire to tell him their darkest thoughts and secrets, which leads to most of the comedic moments in the film. Yes, the first third of the movie is played for laughs, the second third for the mystery and suspense, and the last third as a supernatural horror-thriller. In the Q & A after the screening, author Joe Hill described the film best as a “tragi-comi-horridy.” There’s definitely something for everyone to like in that description.

Horns breezes along (although it would’ve helped to trim it by 15 minutes) and is a fairly entertaining ride throughout. My only problems with the film is the very weak expository-heavy opening, the sometimes inconsistent performance from Daniel Radcliffe (although there’s a scene in a diner which I would argue may be some of his best acting), and a climatic scene that defines the term “cheese.” But hey, all of these are small criticisms for a film that features an angry Harry Potter tromping around with horns, a pitchfork, and a tribe of hungry snakes while seeking justice for his slain love. That’s worth the price of admission alone.

Grade: B-

Sidenote: Ig also has the ability to touch individuals and see their past, but this doesn’t occur consistently throughout the film (characters touch him, but he doesn’t see their past, and sometimes he touches other characters and no flashbacks occur – but this could be because he is touching their clothing and not actual skin – the movie doesn’t make it clear how this ability works, though I’ve no doubt the book does).


One Response to TIFF 2013: Horns Review

  1. Chris says:

    I agree about the cringe-inducing expository dialogue and Radcliffe’s inconsistent acting, but disagree that those are small criticisms. Scripts in general are already pretty poor. When film adaptations of books are weak because they adopt even the book’s weaknesses, we’re lowering our standards even more.

    Stunt casting with a weak actor is another thing we should buck. Radcliffe’s an inconsistent actor whose work is often strained. Don’t like to hate, I’m sure he’s a nice bloke, but he is simply not a good screen actor, and every role he gets is a role denied to a more talented and under-employed actor.

    Film lovers lose from both issues. Good on you for pointing them out.

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