Dear Mr Radcliffe,

We haven’t met, but I’ve been watching you on screen since you were a boy playing a tormented young wizard, a role which made you very famous and very rich.

You are now a young man and want to put the boy wizard behind you. It’s clear that you are drawn to smaller, quirkier projects, and you’ve received positive reviews for your work treading the boards, but your over the top performance in the very silly Horns is unlikely to make anyone look at you in a new light.

Yours respectfully,

Ian Gilchrist

Radcliffe is Iggy Perrish, a DJ who is hounded by his fellow townspeople who believe him guilty of his girlfriend’s murder. After a night of ill-advised drunken sex with the town slut, he looks in the bathroom mirror and sees horns sprouting from his forehead.  They hurt, too.

Naturally alarmed, Iggy heads to the local surgery for a consultation with his GP, and discovers that his newly horned presence triggers very nasty truth telling and behaviour from everyone he comes in contact with.  Getting no answers there, he leaves the surgery determined to find the real killer of his beloved (Juno Temple). Much weirdness ensues.

Horns is a parable of sorts, about good vs. evil and the power of the Lord to protect one from harm, but the story is garbled and its random Christian imagery (snakes, the Satanic horns that Iggy suddenly sprouts, a diner sign for ‘Eve’s’ that’s a big neon apple) doesn’t really hang together in any meaningful manner. Everyone rolls his eyes and gnashes his teeth when delivering the ripe dialogue, but the film can never decide exactly what it is, veering towards satire and then just as quickly veering back towards straight horror/ fantasy. Extreme shifts of tone can work in horror, but don’t in this instance, and the laughs Horns seemingly wants to elicit never really come.

Radcliffe has got the chops and determination to ensure a solid career post child stardom, but his performance here and in the tepid Kill Your Darlings (also playing at TIFF) feel like the probing of an actor eager to cast off the iconic role that defined him. He has a way to go yet.