Out to lunch, over the top and tongue-in-cheek are just a few ways to describe the eclectic, eccentric horror fable “Horns.” But above all, this largely effective thriller, directed by Alexandre Aja (“High Tension,” “Mirrors”) and written by Keith Bunin based on the book by Joe Hill (the son of Stephen King), is powered by love — an unlikely engine for a film about a young man who sprouts devil’s horns.
Daniel Radcliffe stars as Ig Perrish, a small-town disc jockey branded a pariah after his lifelong girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple), is found murdered in a local forest. Although the devastated Ig proclaims his innocence to all around him, including his parents (James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan), troubled brother (Joe Anderson), Merrin’s anguished father (David Morse) and the clamoring press, he remains suspect No. 1.
Only longtime pal Lee (Max Minghella), a public defender working on Ig’s behalf, seems fully on his side. But, as they say, the devil’s in the details.
So one morning, when Ig wakes up to find freaky satanic horns poking out of his forehead — and no way to eliminate them — he makes a decision: Because his accusers think he’s the devil, he might as well play the part — that is, to help clear his name and find his beloved’s killer.
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.
MPAA rating: R for sexual content, graphic nudity, disturbing violence, language and drug use.
Running time: 2 hours.
Playing: In limited release.