'Horns': What the Critics Are Saying

Daniel Radcliffe is accused of murdering his girlfriend and sprouts horns on his forehead in Alexandre Aja's adaptation of Joe Hill's novel

Horns, out Friday, stars Daniel Radcliffe as Ig Perrish, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend and soon sprouts horns on his forehead and harnesses a new ability to evoke the unspeakable truths out of those he encounters — a power he tries to use to solve the crime. The Alexandre Aja adaptation of Joe Hill's 2010 "tragi-come-horror-dy" novel also features Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Kelli Garner, Heather Graham, David Morse, Kathleen Quinlan and James Remar

See more 'Horns' Trailer: Daniel Radcliffe Gets Demonic

The Dimension and Radius-TWC film, produced by Red Granite Pictures and Mandalay Pictures, opens at the specialty box office.

Read what top critics are saying about Horns:

The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore says, "While this all begins as a kind of supernatural black comedy, with plenty of Biblical allusions echoing the Edenic nature of the treehouse where Ig and Merrin spent their happiest hours, the tone grows darker with each revelation. It's a full-grown horror movie in the third act, with Ig commanding an army of serpents and tormenting those whose lies have created the hell he inhabits. Radcliffe takes to this vengeful-demon stuff with relish."

Additionally, "Tech values are surprisingly strong, with longtime David Lynch/Jim Jarmusch D.P. Frederick Elmes doing camera duties. Generally excellent effects work makes those horns (and later developments) look quite realistic."

The New York Times' A. O. Scott warns that for those expecting a straightforward horror flick, "gruesome occurrences are more likely to be mined for laughs than for gasps of terror, and the supernatural developments are played out in a mood of metaphysical melodrama." Since "Hill’s book is long, feverish and messy, an unwieldy but never unreadable stew of mean satire, sincere feeling and quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo," Aja "honors his source in letter and in spirit," with "so many red herrings and plot twists, such a dense barrage of flashbacks and quick cuts," and a "let down at the end, when all the noise, color and energy resolve into a basic whodunit decked out in weak special effects and spiritual swamp gas. But along the way, you can enjoy a garish, eccentric haunted-house tour in the company of some interesting actors" and "Aja’s lurid, hysterical visual sensibility."

Read more Daniel Radcliffe Talks Sprouting 'Horns', Trying New Genres and Playing Past 'Harry Potter'

Los Angeles Times' Gary Goldstein calls it "largely effective" as "the twisted, fever-dream fun and later tension comes from the strange range of powers these horns afford Ig, particularly how they bring out the worst in others. And then there are the snakes. Enough said. As things turn irrevocably supernatural, the movie's anything-goes quality ends up deepening instead of torpedoing the narrative, as can sometimes happen in horror flicks. An extensive use of flashbacks bridging Ig's past and present also prove evocative and strangely poignant."

USA Today's Claudia Puig gives the film two-and-a-half stars out of four: "It lacks a clear focus, however, and doesn't seem to know when to end. Radcliffe gives it his all and makes the film worth seeing. But the supernatural story feels scattered." Though Radcliffe and Morse's "scenes together are some of the film's best and most honest," "plot curves are less twisty than Ig's horns. The climactic finale, foreshadowed earlier, is more silly and belabored than scary. ... Those seeking a consistent tone may not know what to make of this oddball premise, but the unusual blend of genres makes for an entertaining, if uneven, ride."

Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips notes, "If Horns had the zip of the source novel's first two paragraphs, we'd have a movie instead of a mess." Keith Bunin's script is "a strange, unsatisfying mashup, a lot of the rougher stuff, depicting Ig's late-inning vengeance, is sadistically misjudged." Still, Radcliffe "labors valiantly to stay on course with a role, and material, that goes every which way" while the rest of the cast "commits 100 percent."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee