Let’s talk about a movie that features Daniel Radcliffe like you’ve never seen him. A movie in which Danny Rads surprised me. A movie in which the man who played the boy who lived makes bold choices to prove that he is more than just an orphan beneath the stairs. Radcliffe adopts a character trait in this film that is so startling I had to pause it just to let it sink in. In this movie, as shocking as it is, Daniel Radcliffe has…an American accent.
Oh, and devil horns. Those too.
Horns is based on a novel of the same name in which our protagonist, young man Iggy Parish, is accused of murdering his childhood sweetheart and long time girlfriend. While he can’t quite remember everything that happened that night thanks to being drunk, he swears his innocence wholeheartedly and wallows in his self-destructive grief. Most everyone in the town however thinks him a monster.
The devil horns he sprouts one day don’t help matters. Once Parish has these new protuberances anyone near him is compelled to tell him they’re most intimate, darkest secrets. Hilarity ensues until he starts to use this power to uncover the truth behind his beloved’s murder.
Horns managed to grab me early on and kept me keenly interested throughout the entire movie with how it uses a truly bizarre setup to create some real drama. Radcliffe channels a less annoying version of angsty Harry Potter circa Order of the Phoenix to give a strong performance of a broken man whose world has been destroyed. And it still goes downhill from there! I feel so sorry for this guy by the end of it. The mystery unfolds well for the most part with the only unfortunate hiccup coming at the actual discovery of whodunnit. As the most important driving questions are answered, one of the reveals comes completely from left field and detracts from the pivotal moment. That aside, I very much enjoyed this bizarre movie.
What kept me thinking about this movie long after it had ended though was its themes of good, evil, and truth. Common convention would hold that truth and being honest are good things. Lies are prevalent in Horns and cause endless problems including the murder itself. Parish wants nothing more than to know the truth about what happened, a noble cause for sure. Yet it is quite literally powers from Hell that grant him the ability to do this. It’s darkly humorous to see Radcliffe with fire red skin, a pitchfork, and an army of snakes as he continues to use his abilities. The only thing that seems to undo these otherworldly changes is wearing a cross. There is no metaphor here; he absolutely is turning into a demon as he searches out the truth.
Perhaps Horns is simply pointing out the fact that the revenge he seeks against the killer is a dark pursuit. But even the truths he discovers are all dark and negative. People confess to him about how dysfunctional they are and how much they want to punch children. Every new fact that is uncovered about the murder is more hurtful than the last. Even Parish’s own parents, under the influence of the horns, say some utterly heartbreaking things. If the horns had never come to Parish it could be argued that everyone would be better off. At the end of the movie justice may have been served but it took a lot of new hurt and fresh pain for it to happen.
Yet the lie that starts the entire chain of events is one made in an attempt to spare the feelings and heartache of a loved one. By the end of it Parish, and others that had been emotionally destroyed by the murder, have closure and can move on. Characters that had been keeping dark secrets have a weight lifted from their shoulders. And of course a killer answers for what they have done. Certainly the results of the Parish’s demonic powers weren’t all bad.
So where does that leave the idea of truth? Is it a net positive or negative? Parish’s powers come from Hell. In Christian religion even Lucifer himself is a fallen angel, once one of God’s holy winged dudes, now cursed for eternity. Maybe Horns is trying to tell us that the concept of truth holds the same dichotomy. Inherently we want to know the truth. We want empirical, undeniable fact. But the truth can be difficult to hear. To know the truth can be hard, painful, and destructive. Does the good outweigh the bad?
That’s between you and the little angel and devil on your shoulders.
Other movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):
True Romance – Early Tarantino at his Tarantino-est. Going back to this film the opening credits surprised me with an incredible cast list. Quite simply put, if you like Tarantino’s style of dialogue and penchant for likeable schlubs getting in over their head crime stories, you’ll enjoy this one. Worth checking out at least for an unrecognizable Gary Oldman and an incredible tense stare down between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper.
Four Rooms – An anthology of four stories set in one hotel, each segment was written and directed by different people: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and two people who don’t matter. I found only Tarantino’s segment to be engaging. The first segment had a decent steup with no satsifying ending, the third segment was just comic hijinks that wore thin quickly, and I didn’t even understand what was going on in the second segment. YouTube Tarantino’s segment, “The Man from Hollywood” and call it a day.
Hell Baby – A horror farce with Rob Corddry, Keegan-Michael Key, Tom Lennon, Riki Lindhome, Michael Ian Black, Paul Sheer, basically every contestant from @midnight. Little more than a collection of skits strung together with your average haunted house/demonic baby story, the movie lives and dies on the shoulders of the comedians featured in it. Luckily I find most of them funny and I was entertained well enough by this exceedingly stupid movie.
Halo: Nightfall – I’m a sucker for the video game Halo and its universe, so I watched this straight to streaming marketing tie in. A rip off of Pitch Black, space soldiers and civilians race against a time limit on a dark planet while marking hard choices and turning on each other. Roughly the quality of a SyFy movie, it does a good job of cherry picking a few pieces of Halo lore and making them work within its meager budget. In the end it’s spectacularly…adequate? Serviceable? I guess?
The Last Witch Hunter – Vin Diesel is a rogue demon witch hunter who used to have INCREDIBLE facial hair in his Viking days. What the movie lacks in originality it makes up for with charismatic performances and great visual design for the witches and their powers. Despite a character turn in the 11th hour that felt random and unnecessary, this was above average for the genre. I’d watch a sequel.
Spectre – Oy. I was sorely disappointed. Two out of the last three Daniel Craig Bond movies were really good, and this one added the great Christoph Waltz as the villain! Awesome! Unfortunately, I was so far ahead of the predictable plot that the mystery comprising the first 90 minutes was dull and tedious. By the time Waltz is on screen he is his usual delightfully evil self, but the plot fails to back his character up with the weight he deserves. As I was so disengaged with the movie some moments actually felt like they bordered on self parody rather than excitement. The action is well done and fun, but that’s nowhere enough to save the rest of the film.