Horns ReviewThis year, the cinematic landscape is suffering from a staggering lack of scary movie product. Instead of the usual "Paranormal Activity" installment, we've got a limp haunted board-game movie in "Ouija" and a tenth anniversary re-release of the first "Saw" movie (a film that inspired countless sequels, another staple of Halloween that has evaporated by thinly mixed fake blood). But fear not! There is one late-entry scary movie, opening on Halloween day no less -– French filmmaker Alexandre Aja's "Horns."

Based on a novel by Joe Hill (whose daddy, it should be noted, is Stephen King), "Horns" stars Daniel Radcliffe as a man who, after a night of hard drinking, wakes up to find a pair of devilish knobs poking out from his forehead. What's more -- those horns cause people around him to confess their deepest fears, something which should be especially helpful since he is trying desperately to figure out who murdered the love of his life (Juno Temple).

But is "Horns" a trick or a treat? And is it worth going out of your way for, when you could just stay at home and fall into a deep, sugar-induced coma while shoving handful after handful of candy cord into your gaping maw? Read our "Horns" review to find out!

1. This Is a Very Different Daniel Radcliffe
If you only know Radcliffe from his role as the Boy Who Lived in the eight "Harry Potter" adventures, then "Horns" should be a very rude awakening for you. As Ig Parrish, Radcliffe totally transforms -- everything from his bad attitude to his American accent comes across flawlessly. It's a terrific performance, one that becomes more profoundly unhinged as the movie rolls along and his demonic powers start to get amplified. You've kind of got to see it to believe it. If you were wondering if Radcliffe could make a mature jump to riskier material, then this is your answer.

2. There Is Definitely A Very Stephen King Vibe
While the movie is set in the Pacific Northwest, the movie still feels very much like the work of Hill's dad. There's the small, wooded town full of secrets, the supernatural resting right alongside the mundane, prolonged flashbacks to childhood trauma and, of course, the flashes of extreme violence. This isn't a knock; Stephen King is probably the closest my generation is going to get to Mark Twain, but you just can't help but draw those parallels.

3. It's Two Hours Long...
Unlike most horror haunts, "Horns" is a full two hours long. Just know this going in, especially if you are trying to cram in a showing in-between other Halloween activities. But that's OK, because "Horns" has a lot more on its mind than how much gore it can splatter on the screen.

4. ... And a Very Full Two Hours
"Horns" is also a lot of movie. There are at least a half-dozen subplots, the aforementioned flashbacks to Ig's childhood, and at least part of the movie is set in a dreamy, ethereal netherworld (one that is thankfully inhabited by Juno Temple, who, true to form, is very naked). On both a narrative and thematic level, there's a whole lot to chew on, gleefully mixing the sublime and the perverse.

5. There's a Nifty 'Twin Peaks' Reference
Not going to explicitly say what it is. But keep your eyes open for a very familiar-looking diner waitress.

6. The Supporting Cast Is Terrific
If it was just Radcliffe, taking risks all by his lonesome, it might not have been as satisfying a watch. But "Horns" is stacked with a terrific supporting cast, including Max Minghella as his best friend, Joe Anderson as his brother (how great is Joe Anderson?), Juno Temple as the murdered girlfriend, James Remar (!) and Kathleen Quinlan as Ig's parents, and even a small cameo by David Morse (who is no stranger to Stephen King adaptations). The great thing about these performers, too, is that they're able to play so many different things -- sure, there's their character who everyone sees and then there's the imp that the horns unleash, too...

7. It's Very Funny
There are some super-intense things about "Horns," but the movie is also punctuated with moments of amazing levity. Sometimes the movie even plays like an outrageous, R-rated comedy; something along the lines of a horror-themed "Hangover" (or something along those lines). It's rare for a chiller to also leave us in stitches, but "Horns" does just that.

8. The Soundtrack Is Aces
If rock'n'roll really is the devil's music, then "Horns" has tapped into that wonderfully. The soundtrack to "Horns" is pretty on the nose (yes, that's Marilyn Manson's cover of "Personal Jesus," and no, we're not sure how long it's been since you've heard it), but it works really, really well. This is not a genre defined by its subtlety, and it shouldn't start with "Horns." (The score, too, by Phoenix collaborator Rob, is also totally aces.) Just hope you go to a theater that turns the sound system all the way up.

9. Marketing for the Movie Has Been Misleading
Some of the people who were going to see the film during Fantastic Fest (and just attending screenings in the weeks leading up to the release), noted that the trailers and such for the film had painted it in a much more genteel light. In fact, with its emphasis on the star-crossed lovers and Pacific Northwest setting, it came across as a Young Adult adaptation, more "Twilight" than true horror. This couldn't be further from the truth. While the movie does have a deep, surprisingly resonant emotional center, this is far ruder, cruder, and more adult than the weepy vampire saga.

10. The Climax is Bonkers
If you've never seen one of Alexandre Aja's movies, then we feel sorry for you, because he's one of the best genre filmmakers working today. Ever since making a splash with "Haute Tension" back in France, he has turned in the most consistently entertaining and endearing features in this or any genre (his most recent film was "Piranha 3D," a film that laid the groundwork for "Spring Breakers" in a big, big way). And his genius is assured by "Horns," a movie that climaxes in one of the best, most bonkers set pieces we've seen in horror in quite some time. Just know, if you're watching "Horns" and thinking that it is lacking in Aja's trademark black humor and general nastiness... It's coming... And when he decides to bring the pain, you'll definitely feel it.

Horns
R2013
Based on 35 critics

A horned man (Daniel Radcliffe) uses his new supernatural powers to find his girlfriend's killer. Read More

categories Movies, Reviews