Horns (2013)

(On Cable TV, November 2015) Tone control is a tricky thing, and few films show this as well as Horns.  Adapting Joe Hill’s novel is not an easy proposition, considering how the book veers between comedy and horror and heartfelt redemption story.  Novelists can usually control tone better than directors: prose works differently, and what shows up on-screen often suffers from excessive literalism.  So it is that while Horns’ screenplay considerably simplifies and strengthens the book’s story (to the point where reading a synopsis of the book can feel like a comedy of overstuffed plotlines), this big-screen version can’t quite manage its transition from comedy to horror.  The film is best in its first half, as our protagonist discovers that he’s been cursed with invisible horns, the power of persuasion and a gift for allowing strangers to tell them their deepest secrets.  This leads to a number of very funny sequences, but those laughs get fewer and fewer as his newfound powers lead him to understand what happened on the night of his girlfriend’s murder –a murder for which he’s the prime suspect.  Chaos engulfs his small town, friends turn to enemies, parents can’t be trusted and the secrets he discover may not be the ones he wants to hear about.  Daniel Radcliffe is quite good in the lead role, with Juno Temple being as angelic as she can be as the (idealized?) dead girlfriend.  Despite Horns’ problems, this is Alexandre Aja’s least repulsive film yet and one that suggests that he may have a future beyond genre-horror shlock.   

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