Daniel Radcliffe has made some interesting career choices since casting off his Harry Potter psyche, and his role in Alexandre Aja’s romantic/comic/horror fable is no exception. Adapted from a novel by Stephen King’s son Joe, this rather bizarre but completely absorbing thriller is the tale of a young man who, after he is wrongly accused of killing his girlfriend, turns into the Devil. Literally.
With the whole of the small town baying for his blood since he was acquitted for the murder of his childhood sweetheart through lack of evidence, Ig Perrish wakes up one morning with horns literally sprouting out of his forehead. As he tries to get them removed he is somewhat surprised to discover that instead of people freaking out at the sight of them, they all immediately feel the need to impulsively over-share their darkest secrets with him. When Perrish realises the power the horns have given him he deliberately sets out to confront people to see if this compulsion to tell him the truth will help him discover who the actual murderer is.
It’s a painful journey as part of what he uncovers is the knowledge that his own parents confess that they not only believe he is guilty of the crime but they actually want him to disappear for good. ‘I don’t want you to be my son anymore’ his mother cries. The only ‘good’ person who cannot even physically see the horns is Lee, his best friend and now a Public Defender who has been on Perrish’s side the whole time.
As he starts piecing the puzzle together of what really happened on the fatal night, Perrish’s horns get bigger and bigger and the story takes on even more of a Biblical context with scenes of writhing serpents coming to his aid. Then as the tale finally reaches the part where the murderer is revealed it becomes a full-on horror story with Perrish relishing his incarnation as the Devil himself.
A rather wonderful Radcliffe is really at home in the part and convincingly plays the distraught boyfriend who steadfastly refuses to be intimidated by the hostile locals. He is supported by fellow Brits Juno Temple as Merrin the poor dead girlfriend, and Max Minghella as Lee his childhood friend, and the cast is rounded off with James Remar and Kathleen Quinan as his parents and David Morse as Merrin’s distraught father. Blink and you may miss the cameo appearance of the irrepressible Heather Graham as a very sexy waitress who suffers a snake attack for making up stories about Perrish.
Aja, best known for the very scary ‘The Hills Have Their Secrets’ insures that this movie too is very bloody indeed (too much for my personal taste) but he also peppers the script with some very comic scenes verging on the bizarre which lighten the proceedings at time. Its wonderful setting on the Pacific Northwest adds a level of real beauty to the piece, but with a running time of 2 hours it is at least 30 minutes too long.