Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe gets demonic horns in this terrible fantasy
“Horns is an astonishing achievement in the art of filmmaking, a demonic fantasy that will delight Harry Potter’s fans across the world.” That sentence might be true in a bizarro version of our universe, but it’s certainly not true in our reality. Horns happened to be the last film I watched in 2014. It also happens to be the worst film with actual Hollywood talent I watched all year.
Director Alexandre Aja jumps multiple genres in Horns, ranging from tone-deaf black comedy to insipid romance. The supernatural thriller has wild swings in tone. It morphs from romance to fantasy to brain-dead mystery, skipping many beats along the way. The producers themselves could not figure out what genre it fell in, calling Horns a “tragicomedy” horror.
I simply call it garbage.
Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) is the primary suspect in the murder of his long-time girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple). Hounded by his hometown for the murder of its beloved sweetheart, Ig awakens one day with demonic horns growing out of his temples. Ig soon learns they have supernatural powers, giving him an ability to compel people around him to confess their past sins and follow their darkest impulses. Ig then uses his new powers to uncover the real murderer. The only person that doesn’t seem affected by the horns is Lee (Max Minghella), Ig’s childhood friend that has also been his defense lawyer. Horns’ narrative is a confusing mess, using layered flashbacks to detail Ig’s childhood as the present lurches along at a maddeningly random pace.
The former face of the Harry Potter franchise needs acting lessons now that he has left being a boy wizard behind.
No one confuses Daniel Radcliffe with Laurence Olivier, but the star turns in a dull, wooden effort as the film’s central character. If Radcliffe hadn’t been cast as the main character in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time as a boy, I am not sure he would have had an adult career in Hollywood. The only reason to give this movie a chance is actress Juno Temple, who shines in her role, the one bright light in the cesspool that is Horns. She is the cute, appealing female lead a movie of this kind desperately needed if it were any good. Mostly appearing in flashbacks as Ig’s murdered girlfriend, Merrin, she is the one actor in Horns that steps up, delivering a charismatic performance. It is not good enough on its own to save the movie, but let us hope Horns does not kill her career.
The rest of the cast is stiff and wooden, especially Daniel Radcliffe and Max Minghella. The former face of the Harry Potter franchise needs acting lessons now that he has left being a boy wizard behind. Even the veteran actors making cameos don’t seem to know what is going on, including Heather Graham and David Morse.
Adapted from Joe Hill’s 2010 dark fantasy novel, director Alexandre Aja’s strengths have never been story and plot. Horns has a simple Scooby Doo mystery that ends in two dumb twists, both of which are easy to see coming. One gets the feeling the script was worked around a few special effects set pieces, laid out before it was actually finished.
Is there an audience for this confused genre tripe? For all the girls that grew up on Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe walks around shirtless a fair amount of time. This is not a good film by any stretch. Thus, there are tens of thousands of more deserving films to see with your time.
Horns arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of distributor Starz/Anchor Bay in a mildly pleasing presentation. The nearly two-hour main feature gets a strong AVC video encode on a BD-50, averaging a robust 27.90 Mbps. The Arri Alexa-shot production is a little cooler than most newer movies, leaning toward paler flesh-tones. It is not award-winning videophile material but has strong definition in its sharp video.
Horns does look soft on occasion, particularly in the FX-heavy scenes. The cinematography is not particularly vivid, resulting in relatively flat depth. The amount of digital composites used in post leads to lackluster detail, even in medium-range shots. Black levels are less than stellar in a couple of scenes, producing some crushing and weak shadow delineation.
Horns has respectable picture quality for a new film. This Blu-ray’s 2.39:1 widescreen presentation is probably very close in transparently replicating the film’s 2K Digital Intermediate.
Horns’ soundtrack is one of the film’s few saving graces, featuring a couple David Bowie’s hits and Where Is My Mind? by the Pixies. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio presentation is strong, featuring isolated surround cues and more than enough aggression in its bass. The fidelity is high, though I did find a few songs mixed rather low in volume. There are no problems with the perfectly intelligible dialogue.
Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles display in a white font, entirely within the widescreen framing at all times.
A trailer and one extended featurette are the entirety of this BD’s special features. It looks like everyone preparing this home video edition knew they had a stinker on their hands.
Snowpiercer Trailer (01:10 in HD) – This trailer plays before the main menu.
The Making of Horns (18:48 in HD) – A fluffy featurette with a few choice soundbites from the cast and several producers. We get glimpses of footage from the set, as director Alexandre Aja works his magic. Only people paid to work on Horns would praise it to this degree, I don’t think anything said in this puff-filled featurette is genuine. The movie was barely watchable, so this very typical EPK package on it is nearly insufferable.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.