Fantastic Fest Review: HORNS Pokes Around But Never Fully Penetrates

Daniel Radcliffe goes all the way in a movie that does not.

If you are fifteen years old and love to watch adaptations of your favorite young adult novels but sometimes wish those movies had a little more in the way of gore, swearing, and hot treehouse sex, then Horns is for you. I’m sure Horns is for a lot of other people as well, but at its core, this is a somewhat arbitrarily dirty YA movie rather than the full on horror entertainment for adults some might expect.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Ig Perrish, a small town DJ who has been deeply in love with his girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple) for most of this life. When she suddenly dies, everyone thinks he murdered her. It seems pretty certain that he’s going to just drink away however many days of freedom he has left, but instead horns grow out of his head and he discovers he has a weird new superpower where people in his vicinity cannot help but tell him the truth and indulge in their impulses. He figures he might as well use this power to find out who killed Merrin.

That all sounds great. Radcliffe (and his cool American accent) shows up eager and game to expand his image to include swearing, smoking, drinking, and treehouse sex, and he looks really cool doing it. The first half of the film, where everyone around Ig spills their deepest secrets and/or start fucking each other, is fun and feels exactly like what we expected from the film.

But as Horns progresses, it reveals a much softer narrative than it sets up. We get an early warning of things to come with a couple of extended flashbacks to the beginning of Ig and Merrin’s childhood-spanning romance. Meanwhile, most of the present tense story turns into a fairly uninteresting murder investigation. I would be very surprised if you do not guess the killer’s identity early on.

There is a lot to like with Horns, especially once you figure out what kind of movie it is. Radcliffe and Temple are great, but we also get nice supporting performances from the always reliable David Morse, Heather Graham, and James Remar. While the film suffers from weird pacing issues (at a full two hours, it is way too long), it really does look beautiful and has a lot of fun with its dirtier moments.

At the end of the day, this is kind of an R-rated YA romance film. I respect that, even if the movie ultimately didn't engage me much. Like, you could go see The Fault in Our Stars or you could see a movie kind of like that which also happens to include a lot more grown up elements (treehouse sex!). It’s the ultimate date movie for thirteen year olds who sometimes steal their parents’ cigarettes.