With the new year approaching, we celebrate our films of 2014. Alexandre Aja’s Horns is up.
There will never be a time when the mention of Daniel Radcliffe’s name doesn’t make the words ‘Harry’ and ‘Potter’ appear in your mind. No more than you can think of Sean Connery without ‘James’ and ‘Bond’, or Eddie Izzard without ‘used to be’ and ‘funny’. Being an integral part of a global phenomenon like the JK Rowling franchise will do that to an actor. And yet, it isn’t preventing Radcliffe from carving a path for himself as a legitimate Hollywood player in his own right.
Radcliffe has never been afraid to take risks with his career or his image…quite simply, he’s a fun guy, and immensely likeable
There are many reasons for this. Firstly, although only Emma Watson has come anywhere near Radcliffe’s ability to shake off the character stigma, pretty much all of the kids from Potter went on to be balanced, well-adjusted adults. There was obviously some fantastic handling and managing, on set and off, which resulted in a complete absence of Lohanesque DUI and rehab tales, or unfortunate Amanda Bynes style public meltdowns. The kids were, to paraphrase that grammatically dubious song by The Who, ‘all right’.
Secondly, Radcliffe himself has never been afraid to take risks with his career or his image; be it sending himself up something rotten in that episode of Extras, or exposing his (probably) glorious genitals on stage, in that play about the guy who blinds horses. Thirdly, and most importantly, Radcliffe is never reluctant to discuss the character that made him. No agent hands Letterman a piece of paper with instructions to stay away from the P word. Radcliffe’s face never drops when a chat show host or audience member brings up the inevitable. Quite simply, Radcliffe is a fun guy, and immensely likeable.
Horns is just one in a series of smart, Potterless career choices from Radcliffe; others include starring in Hammer’s comeback, The Woman in Black, and the boundary-nudging Kill Your Darlings, where he gave a beautifully nuanced performance as famed homosexual Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. The more cynical could be forgiven for thinking that there is no such thing as a risky role for someone with Radcliffe’s personal wealth and apparent Tinseltown clout, but an actor is only as good as his last movie.
Horns is an old fashioned morality tale, a whodunit, and a ‘what would you do?’ dilemma all rolled into one
Based on the bestseller by Joe Hill, Horns isn’t by any means ground-breaking, but it fits neatly into the Ripping Yarns/Amazing Tales niche so beloved by the novelist’s father, Stephen King. And continuing the theme of people with famous fathers, Radcliffe’s leading lady in the film is the ubiquitous Juno Temple, who is fast proving to be one of cinema’s most accomplished support acts. I can’t imagine the words, “Yeah, my dad directed Earth Girls Are Easy,” opened too many doors for her, but it’s clear that she didn’t need the help.
King is renowned for his, “It is the tale, not he who tells it,” mantra, and with Hill it’s clear that the apple didn’t fall too far. Horns is an old fashioned morality tale, a whodunit, and a ‘what would you do?’ dilemma all rolled into one. There were better films released in 2014, that’s not up for debate. But Horns ticked this reviewer’s two favourite boxes when it comes to deciding if a film is worth your time. It’s a lot of fun, and it makes you think.
The gimmick is simple – the horns Ig (Radcliffe) suddenly sprouts bring with them a magical power which makes other people reveal their darkest desires, and seek permission to carry them out. Almost everyone in town, Ig’s parents included, turns out to be harbouring hate, bitterness, and frustration; not because they have been possessed by some mystical demon, but because they are human. That was the ‘makes you think’ bit, by the way. Do keep up.
Almost everyone in town turns out to be harbouring hate, bitterness, and frustration; not because they have been possessed by a demon, but because they are human
The ‘fun’ part comes from watching how our protagonist reacts to the new situation. Much like in Mel Gibson’s What Women Want, or The Invention of Lying, hilarity ensues. Hilarity, and swearing. Which brings us back to the Boy Wizard. Because, no matter how much we admire Radcliffe for branching out dramatically, or how much we love him for his humility and candour in various TV interviews, every one of us, deep down inside, sequestered in the darkest halls of our subconscious – every last one of us thinks it’s hilarious when the little tiny Harry Potter fella says “fuck”.
All images: Dimension Films/RADiUS-TWC