Evan’s Movie Review: ‘Horns’ Starring Daniel Radcliffe

I’m not entirely sure what this film wants to be. It has elements of humor, dark humor, very dark humor, serious drama, light romance, and even a part whodunnit mystery, and that’s a lot of different tones to wrap into a two hour film. Yet, as this strange, fantastical tragedy unfolds, we see Daniel Radcliffe mature into an actor who feels unstoppable, not with devil powers, but with a first class performance.

The inconsistencies of Horns are not an uncommon occurrence in film as of late. It comes with the territory of making a genre film, and at the same time trying to turn that same genre on its head. Horns, based on the novel of the same name by Joe Hill, son of Stephen King, entangles itself with a story that is just dark enough that it feels the need to prove how dark it is, but also to alleviate that darkness with either wit or humor or something else.

The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as a young man named Ig, or Ignatius, I suppose, Perish. We first meet Ig in the aftermath of an accusation that he murdered his girlfriend, Merrin Williams, (Juno Temple). The crime that he knows he absolutely never committed, and yet not a soul in the town believes him. When we first encounter Ig, he awakens in the late morning on the floor of his house in a drunken and sorrowful haze, with almost the entire town, and the press, picketing and shouting outside of his house as he attempts to drown them out with his David Bowie vinyl. While being tailed by the media relentlessly, Ig hopes to rely on the help of his family and friends to figure out what exactly happened to Merrin, but his efforts become stalled as he finds that his forehead has suddenly begun growing strange horns. If evil looking bones protruding from his head weren’t enough, it suddenly seems that anyone he surrounds himself with feels inclined to share their deepest, sin worthy thoughts, reaching from gluttony to wrath, asking him permission as though he were some authority of acceptably despicable behavior. As opposed to the traditional hero’s journey, Ig, an inherently good character, is thrust into achieving his goal by means escalating in evil quality.

I was absorbed in the film from the start as a result of a number of factors. From the sweeping, first transition shot from a lost paradise to a drunken man in his dark home, I could tell that this film was going to be mostly aesthetically pleasing by means of cinematography done by Frederick Elmes (Blue Velvet). I say mostly because dynamic shots like this, among others, occur again, but sparingly, as there is so much story to unravel in this film that we spend most of the time ogling at the massive elephant in the room sitting atop Ig’s head.

This is not to say the horns distract from Daniel Radcliffe’s acting. His American accent is convincingly solid, and allows one to dive right into the story in company with Ig Parrish, not Harry Potter. The conditions of this story call for Ig to slip into the territory of evil, without ever leading us to believe that he actually is. Without spoiling the film, it’s vital to note that Radcliffe effectively leads the audience as a hero, almost as though you’re seeing an angel falling because his wings are pulled by the accusing mankind, and while Ig is forced to resort to devilish actions to find out what exactly happened to his beloved Merrin, I feel it is rare that the audience will disconnect from Ig as their “hero” figure, and much of this is credited to Daniel Radcliffe’s performance.

That being said, this film looks pretty blasphemous by nature of the story commenting on the hypocrisy of humanity. If a viewer is at all familiar with Catholic faith and ceremony, even if not a follower of it, it will make you cringe. Throwing a whiskey bottle into a vigil, and curb stomping a Virgin Mary statue has enough symbolic context in itself, but the film overall does not want to look atheistic for the sake of being angry at the world. The effects of the horns atop Ig’s head work more outward than they do in, as it expels an energy that exposes some of the most horrible, and even comical things people think about in the back of their heads. The balancing struggles of the film come from needing to explain a fantastical logic of the horns growing on Ig, leading the audience to how Merrin was murdered in very lengthy flashbacks, but also trying to flirt with these philosophical ideas, all within a two hour runtime. It is challenging to condense those ideas into a single film, thus, all the existential religious thoughts and biblical concepts are boiled down to run-of-the-mill symbolism and sight gags in tandem with the consistent “horn” puns throughout, some of which are good for a laugh, and others that are worth an eye roll.

The aforementioned flashbacks establishing Ig’s loving relationship with Merrin run long, however they successfully build to the final conversation that the childhood sweethearts have in a diner, where Ig is getting ready to propose. The following conversation, even with full shot glasses abound, has been on film before, but Radcliffe performs this scene in a very raw way, all too real feeling of a man desperate to hold onto this person, or the idea of this person, that has comforted him for so long that he can’t even think of not having her in his life, and it is heartbreaking to watch.


My primary problem with Horns, unfortunately, is also the biggest SPOILER ALERT, so if you want to watch the film completely fresh then skip this paragraph, but truthfully this is not worth the surprise. The story, and the lead in to Merrin’s murder, build up and escalate in tension well, and even though this film is about the horrible things that human beings are capable of, I’m not going to excuse attempted rape in any film, television or life. No, this is not done by Radcliffe/Ig, so have no worries about that, but the character that does attempt to force himself on Merrin is so deluded and obsessed that it brings you out of the film in disgust and makes you also wonder how it was that Ig was the one who ended up with the horns. But don’t worry, the film’s climax gives the true villain what he deserves just short of Ig speaking “parsletongue,” and reminds the audience that Lucifer did used to be an angel after all in an admittedly strange and jarring action scene. END SPOILER ALERT.



This film will draw fans of Daniel Radcliffe with ease, and I would absolutely recommend it as a performance vehicle for him. Fans of the horror genre will find Horns to be more like a black comedy and a drama than the fare they’re used to, but with the themes of humanity’s faults being all the same. If you are looking for something to go see in the theaters this Halloween (Friday), or to rent something new with Video On Demand (VOD), this would be an entertaining indulgence for the evening. But Horns’ themes are not for the faint of heart, or for Catholic grandmas.

Rating: ★★★★★★ (6/10 stars) // If rape scene was cut ★★★★★★★ (7/10)



Exit mobile version