Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) has been through the wringer lately. Hitting the bottle seems to be the only way to cope with the crushing weight of depression that has hit him since his girlfriend and childhood sweetheart Merrin (Juno Temple) died, especially considering everyone in the small logging town blames him for the death. She was found in the surrounding forests, raped and murdered, and all the evidence points to Ig as the culprit in spite of his vehement protests of innocence. But tell that to the folks who demand he be strung up for the crime, which has attracted media attention and even demonstrators outside his apartment; luckily his lifelong friend, now a lawyer, Lee Tourneau (Max Minghella) is standing by him. But then something unexpected occurs...
Yes, Ig turns quite the little devil in this adaptation of the novel by Joe Hill, who it is obligatory to point out whenever he's mentioned is Stephen King's son. He may be his father's son in his choice of genre to specialise in, but as Horns proved he was not exactly a copy, with his next novel after this one N0S4R2 the closest he had gotten to imitation of King Sr's style. With this there was a more mystical take on a murder yarn, rather akin to Twin Peaks if you wanted to make comparisons, though its deadpan and off-kilter technique was all his own and something director Alexandre Aja had a little difficulty in translating to the screen. His solution was to make this more of a mystery than the source had been, conventional perhaps but probably more sensible cinematically.
The publicity buzz centred around Radcliffe appearing in a role that few could not describe as grown-up, the star being most identified with a certain franchise of his childhood that had brought him celebrity, and also the opportunity to pick and choose what he felt would be interesting to adopt with regards to his acting (he certainly got to turn the air blue here). He already had one horror hit under his belt with The Woman in Black, but Horns was a trickier proposition, and in that way more welcome as it was not yet another sequel or remake, it may have been drawn from existing material but it was at least something not quite familiar on the movie screen. If Aja appeared a shade uncertain of quite what he was meant to emphasise, then the mixture of elements from horror, black comedy, romance and even a spot of superhero fantasy was assuredly novel.
As the title suggests, once it has been established that Ig is a wronged man in the eyes of the film, if not the other characters, it can really go to town on his new power. But with great power comes... a great big pair of horns growing out of his forehead, lending him a Satanic countenance which the locals would appear to have metaphorically landed him with as they regard him as some kind of demon for what they believe him capable of. There was a theme, the notion that too many people are all too eager to believe the worst, whether that be gossip or hearsay, or, as happens here, when the worst really does happen, although not the worst they thought they had sussed. Ig is painfully aware of the injustice of his situation, but initially is reluctant to do anything about it but alternately drink and halfheartedly protest his innocence.
This sick of the world attitude would also seem to have made those horns grow, but there's a catch, or a bonus depending on your point of view in that they have the power to make anyone within a few feet admit their darkest fears and desires no matter if Ig wants to hear them or not, and he usually doesn't. Here's where the twisted comedy enters into it as he persuades the hassling media to beat each other up, two cops to act on their secret attraction to one another, and one of the main witnesses, a waitress (Heather Graham), to admit she made up her story for fame and fortune she certainly isn't going to get at the end of the movie. That was where events took an even grimmer turn as Ig feels the need to lash out, but when you see the angelic nature of Merrin you understand he may not be behaving with a clear mind. Temple didn't get much to do in a flashback-heavy and rather thankless role, but her big diner scene counted considerably to the emotional punch of her fate. It was a weird one, not weird enough maybe, but compelling for its oddity. Music by Robin Coudert.
[The Lionsgate Blu-ray looks and sounds crystal clear, with a making of and a couple of interviews with Aja and Radcliffe as extras.]