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Horns

Year: 2014
Production Co: Red Granite Pictures
Director: Alexandre Aja
Writer: Keith Bunin
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan, David Morse

Is it a romantic dramedy with horror stylings, an exploitation shocker with a love story at its heart, an edgy, head-scratching rumination on grief and guilt or a mainstream thriller that goes in every direction at once, from Twin Peaks to Hellboy? When not even stars Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple or director Alexandre Aja seem to know, you certainly won't.

When the hero sprouts horns from his head and gains the curious power to make everyone tell their most embarrassing truths it's never really explained why, making the film seem avant-garde. But the overblown CGI of the climax and the love story centre makes it seem commercial. Unfortunately it's both too much (and not enough) of one to be the other.

It's an adaptation of Joe Hill's book about a young man in a small logging town, Ig (Radcliffe), who's accused of murdering his girlfriend Merrin (Temple).

With everyone around him unsure of whether he's really as innocent as he claims, Ig's problems are compounded when he sprouts horns from his forehead and falls under an onslaught of unasked-for honesty. The doctor he goes to see is more interested in shagging the nurse (and says so) and Ig's own mother tells him unceremoniously that she wishes he'd just go away.

From there it goes into a crazy spiral of forcing his brother to drink and take drugs, attracting snakes everywhere he goes for some reason and the killer somehow proving to be someone from his very own small circle of friends and acquaintances. And if you hadn't figured out as much from that description, it also goes wildly off the rails too.

At far too many points during the proceedings, it seems neither the screenwriter nor Aja really knew what to do, so they just chucked in the coolest thing they could think of. Why would a horde of snakes attack the antagonist and then all slither away while the lead snake forces its way into his mouth and down his throat to kill him? Is it intelligent? A physical manifestation of Ig's ego? It's pretty obvious the whole thing riffs on Satan motifs what with the snakes and the horns, but how does it all fit?

Like his father's many books that have been turned unsuccessfully into movies, it seems so far Hill's work is a victim of the same curse where a director completely misses what makes the book special.

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