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Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Kelli Garner, Heather Graham, David Morse, Kathleen Quinlan, James Remar

Director: Alexandre Aja

He’s danced on Broadway, stomped the West End stage stark naked and, aged 21, played a widower with a young child in a hammy Hammer horror. Now Daniel Radcliffe has yet another go at exorcising Harry Potter with this less-than-riveting comedy-horror show which sensibly makes its big screen bow in time for Halloween when celluloid shockers have their best chance of biting at the box-office.

The source of the fluctuating screenplay is the cult novel by Joe “Son of Steven” King: sadly Horns ends up missing Steven King’s unique movie magic.

Says director Alexandre Aja: “I spent months poring over the book with our screenwriter Keith Bunin, and worked in developing the screenplay in order to make it as true to the novel as we could…I found the story to be like a reversal of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life with an ode to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and a hit of the humour and tone of Fight Club."

The result is a curate’s egg fried up from some interesting ideas seasoned with effective movie magic and ghoulish black comedy; unfortunately in cooking up his movie, Aja failed to beat out the lumps led by Radcliffe whose American accent is the most convincing aspect of his performance.

He fails to rise to the occasion, playing a young man in a small town in the gloomy Pacific Northwest (Canada, which stands in for the United States, gives the most convincing and consistent performance in the film) who is ostracised by the locals for having murdered his girlfriend Juno Temple. Understandably depressed and harassed by the media, Radcliffe wakes after a night of booze, drugs and dissipation to find he has grown horns on his temples. The unexpected outburst of keratin growth prompts his doctor to tell him the obvious “That sure doesn’t look right”. But horns have a splendid side effect, forcing all and sundry to blurt out the truth and drive the story towards a daffy climax involving a slew of snakes that invade the body of the (all too patently obvious) real killer…

To give Aja his due, he tells his increasingly silly story with an admirable refusal to try and solidify the all-over-the-place mixture of visual and verbal shocks, black comedy and narrative into a palatable soup. Sadly, Radcliffe lays an uncookable egg.

While it's an OK Halloween time-passer, in the end I found the eventual omelette a rather less than involving case of Hogwarts to Hogwash.

Alan Frank

USA/Canada 2013. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour.
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 30 Oct 2014