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'Horns' review: A lesser Daniel Radcliffe

Daniel Radcliffe in

Daniel Radcliffe in "Horns." Photo Credit: Doane Gregory

Moviegoers harbor a great deal of affection for Daniel Radcliffe, having watched him grow up as Harry Potter, but he's testing the limits of human charity with a movie like "Horns." Directed by the well-regarded Alexandre Aja, the French filmmaker who gave fanboys a thrill back in 2006 with his remake of Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes" (he also directed the guilty pleasure "Piranha 3-D"), "Horns" shoplifts from several genres -- murder mysteries, satanic-possession thrillers, coming-of-age indie whiners -- without stealing the best of any of them. Or, for that matter, finding a tone.

Once upon a time, it was sufficient to have a dead body and an unjustly accused. Now the unjustly accused has to sprout horns. When the movie opens in its Pacific Northwest town, Iggy Perrish (Radcliffe) is a pariah: A year earlier, his girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple), was raped and murdered, and every finger has been pointed at Iggy, who has yet to be indicted. It's not helping his case that Veronica (Heather Graham), the waitress at the diner where Merrin and Ig were last seen together, is willing to lie just to get on TV, or that Merrin's father (David Morse) keeps sticking a shotgun in Iggy's face. Or that his lawyer, Lee (Max Minghella), seems a little shifty.

Looking sleepless and unshaven, Ig sets out to solve the crime himself, abetted by two ram's-style horns that sprout out of his forehead and compel anyone who sees them to not only tell the truth, but do whatever Iggy suggests they do. What develops is a social critique of small-town life that doesn't exactly mesh with the more felonious aspects of the story, or the demonic possession accoutrements, or an acceleration of violence. That Ig gets around town in a red Gremlin is one of the better visual jokes in the movie, which will drive one to distraction with its histrionic acting, multipronged approach to storytelling and infernal attempts at social commentary.


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