HiT Movie Review: ‘Horns’

He forgot his clothes for Broadway’s “Equus” and got gothic for 2012’s “The Woman in Black.”

Now, he’s sporting horns in yet another horror story, and wouldn’t you know they suit him to a Tee. Boy wizards will be the furthest thing from your mind while watching the movie, available now via Video on Demand before its Oct. 31 theatrical release.

Horns Official Trailer #1 (2014) - Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple Movie HD

“Horns,” adapted from Joe Hill’s novel, casts Radcliffe as Iggy, a lovestruck man mourning the death of his beloved. Only everyone in town thinks Merrin (Juno Temple) died at his hands. The cops can’t pin the crime on him, but in this small town he’s the obvious suspect.

So it seems karmic when Iggy grows a pair of horns one morning. His doctor can’t remove them, and they have a curious effect on those around him. Suddenly, people reveal their darkest secrets to Iggy, as if the horns were a truth serum no one can resist.

This grim fable takes on comic shading with every confession, and the film’s tone begins to wobble. Is director Alexandre Aja (“Piranha 3D”) losing control?

Rather than give in to the black humor, “Horns” uses these revelations to piece together the puzzle of Merrin’s murder. The film’s small stable of characters makes sussing out the villain so easy even Shaggy could do it. Still, strong supporting work by James Remar, David Morse, Max Minghella and Joe Anderson provides a depth few genre films possess.

Morse in particular, burdened with the grieving dad role, elevates the archetype with a few assured line readings.

Stick around for the dizzying third act and horror hounds will be in for a rush. “Horns” gets nastier toward the finish, but its romantic core never get pushed out of the frame. Temple provides a purity that is essential to the tale, but it’s Radcliffe’s devotion that wins us over.

Iggy could have come across as whiny, immature or just plain cursed. Instead, Radcliffe gives him gravitas no matter how goofy those horns may look.

“Horns” embeds a spirituality to the tale that is both sly and positive in scope. It’s playing fast and loose with religious dogma, but it’s hard to watch without seeing a measure of respect paid to faith.

Better still, “Horns” knows it isn’t funny or gruesome enough to keep us engaged. So its love story must be both original and tender. Radcliffe, no matter the appliances grafted to his head, ensures both are true to the final fade.

DID YOU KNOW: Alexandre Aja says the suits behind “Piranha 3D” wanted to hide the film from U.S. critics. When UK critics responded to its comedy elements, they had a change of heart and let stateside critics check it out.

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