After one glimpse, the title to Daniel Radcliffe’s newest movie requires no further explanation. But there’s so much more to unwrap in Horns, Alexandre Aja’s subversely funny adaptation of Joe Hill’s macabre mystery novel. Yes, Harry Potter grows horns after his angelic girlfriend (Juno Temple) is brutally murdered and he’s the only suspect. In defense of the town’s quick rush to judgment, there are also scenes where a singed Radcliffe wields a pitchfork and communes with menacing snakes. (Once a parseltongue, always a parseltongue.) Also, he drives a flaming-orange Gremlin, so can you really blame the simple townsfolk for thinking he’s tight with Satan?
Horns, which premiered last night at the Toronto Film Festival, is something totally different and unexpected. Radcliffe plays Ig Perrish, who finds that those grotesque horns suddenly growing out of his head have one useful side effect. Rather than being frightened or disgusted, other people are oddly put at ease by the sight of them and compulsively express their deepest and darkest secrets and desires to Ig. There’s the local floozy who really wants to eat all the donuts after sex, the buddy-cops who want to take their relationship to the next level, and Ig’s mother, who just wants him to disappear because his plight makes her so darn sad. “I bring out the worst in people,” Ig laments. But once he begins to understand the blessing that accompanies his curse, he sets out to use his power to find the real killer.