Horns (review)

Last night I saw the 2013 dark horror/thriller/solidly B grade movie starring Daniel Ratcliffe. Yes, spoiler alert, but it is hardly Inception, so don’t get hung up on knowing plot points.

It is as far from Potter as I could imagine in a pinch; featuring everything from crude gore to highly illogical character motivations. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sometimes you need a good clunker to make you appreciate truly great cinema, and Horns is delightfully entertaining.

Apparently it is based on a best selling novel of the same name by Joe Hill. I’ve not read the book and cannot say that I am at all of a mind to. It is good to know even so.

Daniel Ratcliffe plays a young man accused of killing his girlfriend in a small American/Canadian (it’s never made entirely clear) town in the Pacific North-West. Yes, there  is some eerily Twilight-esque shots and music, all very Forks, Washington. Ratcliffe’s paleness doesn’t help either. But unlike Edward Cullen, Ratcliffe remains watchable throughout. In fact, I didn’t notice any slips in his faultless American accent, and there’s just something positively infectious about him. He obviously knew he was doing a B movie, and being directed by the guy who did Piranha 3D at that. It feels to me like he’s laughing with you at every stage, at what is an elaborate joke. An A-list ‘star’ doing a B-grade movie.

His deceased girlfriend Merrin — played by Juno Temple — a very devout Christian, going to church regularly and always wearing a gold cross. But she obviously wasn’t at all hung up on premarital sex, or as it turns out, marriage in general. Juno performs well, in fact she fills out the many flaws in her character left by the slap-dash screenwriters. Neither Temple nor Radcliffe could redeem the script fully, but they improved it immensely. And the passion Radcliffe’s character, Ig, shows for Merrin, seems very convincing.

Ig has a tantrum at the murder sight which has since become a shrine to Merrin with photos and religious iconography. He curses God for having let someone so devout die so horribly, and the next day is awoken by the sprouting of two devil’s horns from his forehead. He is a devil, not the Devil, the definite article you might say. Her has such an effect on people that they blurt out their deepest desires, and give in to the profound influence Ig has on them to do unusual things. This leads to some hilarious encounters with people such as the press horde following him that he induces to literally beat the hell out of each other. These are the best moments of the movie, and the incredulity shown by Radcliffe is simply priceless.

At one point Ig gets hold of an old pitchfork, completing the satanic imagery, and it turns out the presense of Merrin’s gold cross acts as a retardant to his evil powers. If this seems a little on the nose it is an indication of the big weak part of this film, the script. It is rather poor, and given the talented supporting cast do their best to make it work, it really is a pity that it wasn’t better. But, this is a B movie. It is not made of the stern stuff that makes for Academy Awards and critical esteem. It’s a bit of fun, and I heartily recommend it as a bit of escapism after a mundane day.

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