Horns (2013)

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My exposure to Daniel Radcliffe is limited to “The Woman In Black” (liked it) and his appearances on late night TV talk shows, where he comes across as a surprisingly funny, decent and level-headed chap; I’ve never seen any of the Harry Potters or his stage work. Director Alexandre Aja is well known and loved by the ISCFC, but this seems a big leap for him.

So, you’ll have probably seen the trailer by now. Daniel Radcliffe is Ignatius, the prime suspect in the murder of his girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple), and it’s sending him into a dark spiral, as basically no-one really believes he didn’t do it. One day, after a particularly bad evening, he wakes up with a pair of horns sprouting from his forehead, and these horns have two powers – people tell him their innermost thoughts, and ask him for permission to act on their darkest desires, making text what is subtext to us all. At first, he’s pretty frightened by his power, but then realises he can use it to influence people and find out who really killed Merrin.

The film is structured cleverly – rather than build up to the big reveal of the horns, it happens early on, with flashbacks coming later, showing the origin of their blissfully happy relationship, along with the bonds of childhood. In the present, we see both the effects of those childhoods and what people really think, deep down, both of their own lives and of Iggy’s innocence, which is often terribly sad, but played for laughs enough to sweeten the pot.

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As well as showing us how heartbreaking it would be to see into peoples’ souls and see the lives of quiet desperation we all lead, we get a surprisingly rich central relationship from a couple who barely share any screen time. We see the weird chains of causality that affect all of us, and we also get a surprisingly enjoyable central thriller. There are some fantastic performances in “Horns” too – as well as Radcliffe and Temple, both of whom completely nail it, David Morse as Merrin’s father and James Remar as Iggy’s are both top-drawer. Top marks though to Kelli Garner as Glenna, the token female in the group of friends growing up, whose story would be unbearably sad were it not for the ray of hope at the end. This film illustrates the famous quote from Confucius as well as anything I can think of in years, and shows how none of us should embrace our inner devil too much.

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It’s a heck of an achievement for the “Piranha 3D” guy. Okay, it’s not perfect – the actual resolution to the murder is a bit over-the-top, and the reason for Iggy and Merrin’s pre-murder fight seemed ever so slightly forced, but these are small potatoes. A film absolutely worth giving your time to.

Rating: thumbs up

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Kill Your Darlings (2013)

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Directed by: John Krokidas

The Beat Generation was an inspiration but they were also a bunch of bastards, alcoholics, junkies, deviants and… murderers?

‘Kill Your Darlings’ focusses on Allen Ginsberg’s days at Columbia and the forming of a group of writers who changed everything in modern American literature. I suppose the problem with any of the Beat films released to date, like the recent adaptation of ‘On the Road’ or James Franco in ‘Howl’, is that no actor can seem to capture once in a lifetime personalities that have been mythologized beyond adaptation. The Beat Generation were God’s to so many people and as fans of the novels and poems we all have in our heads our own ideas about who Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs really were as people.

For those who know the ‘real story’ ‘Kill Your Darlings’ misses a few key characters and underwrites a few others. Edie Parker played by Elizabeth Olsen is reduced to playing a housebound girlfriend who moans at her boyfriend Jack Kerouac for getting home late, continuing the theme of two dimensional female characters associated with the Beats in cinema. There’s also no room for Herbert Huncke, the man who connected the beats to the dark side during those energetic excitable New York days.

Dane DeHaan, who also featured in ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’, plays Lucien Carr, the angry young man who lit a fire under Allen Ginsberg, played by Daniel Radcliffe, an actor forever trying to shake free from the shackles of Harry Potter franchise in a similar way Elijah Wood and Mark Hamill have tried to get away from the iconic characters they have been woven into. DeHaan and Radcliffe are ably supported by the always watchable Ben Foster who provides the necessary oddness as William Burroughs and Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston who attempts to bring Kerouac alive.

‘Kill Your Darlings’ tries to capture the rebellious spirit of the Beats, presenting the genesis of what fuelled them to write. Lurking in the shadows is David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), a man obsessed with Lucien Carr. The story builds to the major blot on the copybook of the Beats early history when Kammerer is murdered by Carr. The truth of what happened that night has been illuminated in various works of fiction, and it is difficult to get an objective take on what really happened that fateful night. The film tries to present a balanced view.

The good thing about ‘Kill Your Darlings’ is that it makes the great Beat writers mortal. All have their vulnerabilities, even the usually elusive Burroughs. What the film doesn’t do is inspire the next generation, for some reason it seems difficult to present just how ground-breaking these writers were. Krokidas tries to bridge the gap with modern music. I don’t really like the use of modern music in a film set way back in the past, a trend that was also prevalent in ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Django Unchained’. Why was the band TV on the Radio be used during the library scene? Do TV on the Radio represent rebellion in any way?

‘Kill Your Darlings’ doesn’t quite do the Beats justice, but it does provide an interesting coming of age story about how Ginsberg found his groove.

– RJW
6/10

Kill Your Darlings on IMDB