Playing this week at Filmbar Phoenix:
Horns—Taken for granted as guilty in the murder of his adored girlfriend, young Ig Perrish wakes up one morning to find a pair of the title appendages growing out of his forehead. They have, in addition to a rather elegant, backward-curving look, a startling effect on the people Ig encounters around the Pacific Northwest lumber town where he lives, and is seen as a pariah—without invitation, they disclose to him their baser inner thoughts.
This is the set-up for this film version of the 2010 novel by Joe Hill (the son, as he is probably sick of reviewers pointing out, of Stephen King), directed by Alexandre Aja from a script by Keith Bunin. Ig (Daniel Radcliffe) decides to use his newfound ability to elicit candor to figure out who really killed his beloved. The killer isn’t that difficult to guess—I know this because I correctly guessed who it was—but there are nonetheless intriguing layers to the mystery, and the central premise, Ig’s plight and his response to it, is fascinating and amusingly handled.
The climax is a disappointingly standard gory grapple, and though he’s sympathetic as usual, Radcliffe’s performance here doesn’t get very far past haunted earnestness. But the film is still witty and well worth seeing.
RIP to the brilliant Mike Nichols, passed on suddenly this week at 83. Nichols is remembered for his early-‘60s sketch-comedy partnership with Elaine May, but he amassed a really diverse and lively collection of credits as a movie director, starting spectacularly with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate and Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge, through ‘80s notables like Silkwood and Working Girl, through enjoyable later works like Primary Colors and The Birdcage and his underrated swansong Charlie Wilson’s War. For all his bright, snappy wit, he tended to serve the material rather than impose his personality on it, and while not all of his movies were great or even good, a bunch of them will endure.