The devil takes the hind­most

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images -

Horns, mys­tery/hor­ror, rated R, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 2.5 chiles Daniel Rad­cliffe con­tin­ues to stretch him­self beyond the Harry Pot­ter movies with a slew of en­gag­ing new roles — and his work in Horns is no ex­cep­tion. He is the stand­out among an ex­cep­tional and mostly be­liev­able cast in this quirky hor­ror film with a mys­tery at its core. Horns has an in­ter­est­ing premise, open­ing with Ig Per­rish (Rad­cliffe) al­ready un­der sus­pi­cion for the bru­tal rape and mur­der of his girl­friend and first love, Mer­rin (Juno Tem­ple), evil deeds for which he claims in­no­cence. It doesn’t help his cause when he sprouts ever-grow­ing devil horns on his head. But, along with the horns, Ig comes into pos­ses­sion of an un­usual power: the abil­ity to see the truth within the lies of those around him. In time, he takes this gift to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion in his hunt to un­cover Mer­rin’s real killer.

Horned as he is, Ig be­comes the cat­a­lyst for mak­ing oth­ers act on their worst instincts, the ap­pendages ef­fec­tively bring­ing out the devil in ev­ery­one but him­self. Th­ese scenes could af­ford op­por­tu­ni­ties for sur­pris­ing twists and turns. Un­for­tu­nately, how­ever, many of them are played for laughs — what could have been one hell of a creep­fest in­stead goes off the rails dur­ing the ab­surd comedic mo­ments that of­ten feel forced. No­table among them are the pas­sion of two male po­lice of­fi­cers who se­cretly har­bor a sex­ual at­trac­tion for each other and the un­der­used Heather Gra­ham camp­ing it up as a wait­ress who frames Ig for her chance at 15 min­utes of fame.

De­spite its of­ten-misplaced hu­mor, Horns has some gen­uinely ghoul­ish (and one or two down­right gross-out) parts, par­tic­u­larly when Ig dis­cov­ers some ugly truths about Mer­rin’s fi­nal mo­ments. The com­puter-gen­er­ated snakes that follow Ig ev­ery­where like baby duck­lings be­hind their mother seem over the top and not par­tic­u­larly con­vinc­ing. Sym­bol­ism in the film is far from sub­tle — the pro­tec­tive pow­ers of Mer­rin’s cross and its abil­ity to keep the devil at bay are an ex­am­ple. The set­ting is lush, though, and, snakes aside, the ef­fects mostly work, mak­ing the movie at least great to look at. Beyond that, it is gravely lack­ing in sub­stance and cyn­i­cal in how it por­trays most of the town­ies. Rad­cliffe con­vinc­ingly plays Ig as a des­per­ate man with noth­ing left to lose. But when he re­al­izes the ex­tent of his horns’ pow­ers, the script takes him dan­ger­ously close to su­per­hero ter­ri­tory (after ex­haust­ing hu­mor, hor­ror, mys­tery, and drama), and we al­ready have a Hell­boy, thank you very much.

— Michael Abatemarco

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