Director: Alexandre Aja (2013)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson
Find it: IMDB
When I was roughly, oh-say-eight-or-so, I had one of the more troubling nightmares of my life. Like, top five, easily. Even more troubling than that one bad dream I had where it was my birthday and no-one wrote on my Facebook wall. Or that other one, where I got back with the mad ex girlfriend I'd split up with and spent months hiding from. No, in this one (which I still remember vividly, to this day), I woke up in the middle of the night and sleepily padded through to my parents' room, where I found them both sitting bolt upright in bed. "Go away," they told me (I'm paraphrasing - this was twenty or so years ago), "we don't love you. Never did." Oh.
Such nightmares are what informs Horns, the latest from occasionally great French horror director Alexandre Aja, adapted from a novel by Joe Hill. Suspected of his girlfriend's murder, Ig Perrish (Radcliffe) spirals into misery and despair. Everyone thinks he did it, from his girlfriend's furious dad to his fellow townfolk through, apparently, to his own family. However, when he awakes one morning to find he's sprouted a pair of honest-to-God horns out of his forehead, he finds that he might just have a chance at finding out whodunnit. It's like Gone Girl, except with Harry Potter instead of Daredevil and David Bowie instead of Trent Reznor.
One side-effect of said horns is that those around him suddenly feel the urge to offer up their darkest secrets, whether it's the local bully admitting his closeted homosexuality (of course) or his parents telling him that they wish he'd go away and that he's the less favoured son. Traumatic, but potentially useful in uncovering secret murderers in one's midst. Iggy needn't look very far, since the mystery element is the weakest part of the story, the perpetrator of the piece being entirely obvious from the outset. Where Horns works best is in seeing Ig interact with the various denizens of his small town, reacting to the horrible things they tell him. Although I witnessed a woman screaming abuse at her daughter ("what a wonderful advertisement for contraception you are, Lily!") simply by riding around on a bus for half an hour without the aid of horns, so I guess it just depends what the transport links in your city are like.
Horns is another very interesting piece from Aja. Not as good as his Hills Have Eyes remake but better than Switchblade Romance (which I loathed) or Mirrors and more substantial than Piranha (which I love). It has a wonderful soundtrack and great sense of style and, goofy as it is at times (and it gets pretty damn goofy) it reaches some really dark places, not least in the relationship between Ig and his family. Radcliffe delivers a strong performance as the talented young man, although many will dismiss it as the actor's attempt to dismiss his Potter upbringing in a film in which he smokes, drinks heavily, murders and repeatedly takes his clothes off in a manner the boy wizard would never dream of. Just like that time he fucked a horse on a stage. To dismiss Horns as such is to ignore a very good performance, even if his American accent is highly distracting. Also, it only makes one "feeling horny" joke, which is to be lauded.