Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Radcliffe can't solve dilemma in Horns

It's always fun to watch Daniel Radcliffe in his post-Potter career. Not that he's been trying to shed his Harry Potter persona, exactly, so much as stretching the boundaries of what he can do—as well as testing the outer limits of his audience's expectations.

From the troubled stableboy in Equus on Broadway, to the mournful young widower in the Gothic  thriller The Woman In White, to the youthful Allen Ginsberg on the cusp of his outlaw sexuality in Kill Your Darlings, Radcliffe has taken roles that challenge prevailing ideas of who he is as an actor.

But none yet perhaps so challenging as Alexandre Aja's horror thriller, Horns, in which Radcliffe stars as Ig Perrish, the misfit protagonist. Suspected by everyone in his small, Northwestern town of the brutal murder of his girlfriend, and stalked by the sensation-hungry media, he wakes up one day with ram's horns sprouting from his head, and the gift of eliciting the truth (however tawdry) from everyone around him. An unexpected talent that sets him on a hunt for the real killer.

I bought into the first third or so of the story. Radcliffe offers up some intense, yet  sardonic moments, his American accent is pretty good, and there's a subversive, black-comedy kick to the way the newly diabolical Ig starts giving people permission to act on their favorite deadly sins. It has something to do with the way they're all compelled to reveal their most shameful, innermost desires in his presence.

But sadly, the film eventually crosses the fine line between devilish social satire and ham-fisted, cheesiness. I haven't read the source material, the horror novel by Joe (Son of Stephen King) Hill, so I don't know where to lay the blame for all the wretched excess. All I know is the film finally crumbles under its own heavy-handed good/evil symbolism, its jumbled-up Biblical metaphors (snakes, wings, crucifix, horns), and a prevailing sense of overall nastiness.

Radcliffe will emerge, of course, unscathed. Next up? He'll play Igor in a reboot of Frankenstein. Okay, I can't wait!

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