Directed by Alexandre Aja
One of the most anticipated highlights at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival comes from horror maestro Alexandre Aja’s adaptation of Joe Hill’s critically acclaimed novel Horns. No stranger to shocking audiences worldwide with his explicit exploitation fare, Aja has once again stunned filmgoers—but this time he did so with an incredible level of restraint and maturity in this very crafty fantasy horror film adaptation that fans of the novel will definitely enjoy.
After being accused and blamed for the rape and murder of his long-time girlfriend, Merrin (Temple), Ig Perrish (Radcliffe) vehemently maintains his innocence in spite of the fact that no one in town (including his own family) believes him, other than his childhood friend Lee (Minghella). Full of grief and rage, Ig then goes on a drunken bender, only to awaken with horns growing out of his head.
Soon after, Ig quickly realizes that the horns make everyone around him confess their deepest secrets, act on their perverse impulses and, most interestingly, succumb to the power of suggestion. It’s not long before Ig takes advantage of his newfound sinful powers to find out who was responsible for the murder of Merrin, all the while struggling to not be consumed by the evil brewing inside him.
Aja and screenwriter Keith Bunin display an incredible amount of respect for the original source material while also adding their own unique elements to the film, which was especially welcomed. Considering the tricky tonal shifts from comedy to horror and the otherworldly nature of the film, Aja proves that he was up for the challenge and delivers an unsettling, tonally diverse film that could have been a commercial failure if handled by someone with less experience behind the camera.
Although Horns is far less gory than Aja’s previous entries, fans will not be disappointed as he is still able to fit in a few memorable and messy kills and is especially not kind to viewers who suffer from ophidiophobia (hisss).
As far as performances go, Daniel Radcliffe has done what very few childhood actors have been able to and has successfully shed his “Harry Potter” image for good. He gives a standout performance as the lead and brings much depth to the role, while also being able to balance comedy and tragedy in a very impressive way. In fact, all of the actors involved deliver solid performances, most notably Heather Graham; although she has a small role, it is certainly a memorable one.
On the negative side, the film does slightly go downhill in the weaker final act, and the mystery of the killer’s identity will be very predictable for most filmgoers; however, the journey to “Hell” definitely makes up for the film’s few follies.
Overall, Horns is one of the biggest surprises so far at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and is certainly Alexandre Aja’s best film since Haute Tension. If you want to see a horror film that is unique, conceptually rich and also able to pay certain homages to the much beloved "Twin Peaks," then Horns is definitely your go-to film.
4 out of 5