The “Harry Potter” star’s second foray into horror has been ruled “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes with just a 45 percent approval rating from a total of 82 critics who have weighed in on the limited release from Radius-TWC.
“Horns,” director Alexandre Aja and writer Keith Bunin’s adaptation of a Joe Hill novel, follows Radcliffe as he tries to solve his girlfriend’s murder, which the public and news media have already pinned on him. Helping him discover the truth are a mysterious pair of horns that start poking through his skull one morning. Although no human wants to look like the devil — or a billy goat, for that matter — these bad boys drive people to confess their sins and give in to their most selfish and unspeakable impulses.
While the majority of critics seem to have been turned off by the juggling of genres (mystery, horror, comedy, romance), the antics that the strange premise delivers made TheWrap‘s Alonso Duralde a fan.
“Much of what makes ‘Horns’ so impressive, and such fun to watch, is the film’s ability to juggle a variety of genres,” Duralde wrote in his review. “The cast strikes just the right tone in handling the film’s over-the-top situations and deadpan humor. Compared to ‘Tusk,’ another recent film that commits fully to an absurdly bizarre set-up, Aja very rarely mishandles the balance between the wit and the scares.”
USA Today critic Claudia Puig found the entire film flawed for its lack of focus, but admitted she had a good time watching it, and gave particular praise to its star.
“Radcliffe gives it his all and makes the film worth seeing. But the supernatural story feels scattered,” Puig wrote. “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. It’s certainly Radcliffe’s weirdest post-wizardly role. He wields a pitchfork like a magic wand and wears a garland of snakes that would have put Lord Voldemort to shame.”
While New York Times critic A. O. Scott didn’t think the film was particularly scary or added up to much by the end, but suggested that figuring out the equation along the “eccentric haunted-house tour” is where the true fun lies.
“There are so many red herrings and plot twists, such a dense barrage of flashbacks and quick cuts, that you may find yourself as rattled and breathless as Ig (Radcliffe) himself,” Scott wrote. “And a bit 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.”
Detroit News critic Tom Long had very few kind words for the “good-ideas-gone-wild movie that leaves the best of itself behind.”
“‘Horns’ is one of those gonzo films built on an outrageous premise that show initial promise but then lose their way,” Long wrote. “What makes little sense to begin with makes no sense at all by the time the movie’s over, and all the fun has dissipated.”
In stark contrast to those who enjoyed the different genre elements in play, Newark Star-Ledger critic Stephen Witty was too distracted by them to enjoy the show.
“[The premise] is the rather wild, Kafkaesque start of ‘Horns,’ a movie which has a lot of ideas — but is sometimes too much of a good thing, and often too much of a bad one,” Witty wrote. “Is it a black comedy? A genuinely creepy horror movie? Sometimes both, but also, sometimes, neither.”
San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle was counted among the “rotten,” but his review suggests he enjoyed the film up until its messy conclusion.
“Individual scenes are compelling enough that it’s understandable how ‘Horns’ got stretched to two hours. But that turns out to be too long,” LaSalle wrote. “This is especially felt in the push toward the climax — that frequent sag point of 20 minutes before the finish. And the ending offers no compensation. Rather, it’s a complicated mess: a storytelling mess, a genre mess, a special effects mess and a theological mess.”