Friday, October 31, 2014

Daniel Radcliff sprouts HORNS in Alexandre Aja's well-cast and -acted, genre-jumping misfire

A train wreck of a film -- but oddly enough one that's not unpleasant to view -- HORNS seems to want to be every kind of movie imaginable: love story, murder mystery, thriller, horror film, allegory (with the emphasis on the word's third and fourth syllables) and more. That it succeeds at not a single one of these may be some kind of record. But, hey, it stars Daniel Radcliffe, who is turning out to be a very brave little actor, and is directed by French slasher-meister Alexandre Aja (shown below, of High Tension), in what has got to be the biggest budget he's yet been allotted. We get vast Pacific Northwest visuals, copious special effects, a game and relatively big-name cast, with the combination providing simultaneous eye candy and brain sedation.

What were they thinking? comes pretty quickly to mind as the movie rolls to its conclusion, with the villain unmasked (and don't tell me you're hadn't figured the identity out an hour earlier) and the ending coming full circle back to the beginning. One problem is that movies like this one usually last 90 minutes or less. Horns one goes on (and on) for 120 of them. Still, the cinematography is gorgeous and often aptly skeevy (there's an OD-ing drug scene that works squeamishly well and snakes are used to scary effect), so the Halloween opening of the film would seem on the mark.

The story? We learn at the outset that Ig (Mr. Radcliffe, above) has lost the love of his life, one Merrin Williams (Juno Temple, below, right, and if you're a bigtime Temple fan like me, don't worry: The actress makes beaucoup flashback appearances). So Ig is grieving heavily, and the fact the his entire town is certain that he himself murdered Merrin makes his life particularly crappy.

One day, out of the blue, Ig grows a pair of horns that protrude right out of his temple. (Huh? Yes. Don't ask They must be part of that aforementioned allegory.) The effect the horns have upon the town's populace is diverting, to say the least -- especially fun is how they effect the reporters and newscasters! But not everyone can see them, which is even weirder. His best friend (Max Minghella, below), for instance, seems blind to the curly little cuties.

We meet Ig's family (mom, dad, bro), a sleazy diner waitress (Heather Graham, below), some cops, and other assorted townspeople, all of whom act just as the screenwriter (Keith Bunin, from the novel by Joe Hill -- whom I'd prefer to remember as the Swedish-American Union-label songwriter/cartoonist) seems to have wanted them to behave. This town is full of fools and hypocrites, which is undoubtedly the Bunin/Hill point.

You may want to pass the time by counting the Biblical references, or wondering why the snakes attack certain people but not others. Or you might just appreciate the fact that the movie made a place for actors like Kathleen QuinlanJames Remar, and David Morse (excellent!) while giving Kelli Garner the chance to do some very nice acting as the town slut. Or perhaps you'll give over to the genre-jumping silliness of it all and wonder why the filmmaker didn't also include a war film and a soap opera among the genres.

Horns -- from Radius/TWC -- opens today, Friday, October 31, in various cities. Here in NYC, it plays at the Village East and AMC Empire 25; in Los Angeles, look for it at half a dozen theaters around town, some of them Laemmle's. Elsewhere? Yes, it's playing at cities all over the place. Keep looking, or click here, scroll down and put in your own zip code under TICKET AND SHOWTIMES, and see what comes up....

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