Daniel Radcliffe on the Young Actor who Played Him in ‘Horns’

Horns movie poster

The “Horns” press conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, California proved to be a lot of fun as stars Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple and writer Joe Hill, whose book the movie is based on, shared great memories about the making of this dark fantasy. Radcliffe plays Ig Perrish, a young man madly in love with Merrin Williams (Temple) and who will do anything for her. But as the movie opens, we discover Merrin was brutally murdered, and everyone thinks Ig was the one who killed her.

In addition to scenes where we see Ig and Merrin being intimate with one another, we also get to see a flashback where these two lovers first met. This resulted in two younger actors being hired to play these characters: Mitchell Kummen as Ig and Sabrina Carpenter as Merrin, and both look a lot like Radcliffe and Temple. While watching this sequence, I started thinking of the movie “Contact” in which Jodie Foster plays Eleanor Arroway and Jena Malone plays the same character as a young girl. In her commentary track on the “Contact,” Foster said the following:

“I always love watching actors play me, and actually it’s always the reverse; whenever you hire a child actor to play the adult actor, you just ask the adult actor to copy the kid. That’s certainly what Tom Hanks did in ‘Forest Gump,’ and that’s what I tried to do a little bit in this movie.”

That remark stayed with me long after the first time I heard it, and I wondered if Radcliffe or Temple had the same experience with the actors playing the younger versions of themselves in “Horns.” I asked Radcliffe about that, and his answer led to one of the funniest moments of the day.

Daniel Radcliffe: That’s interesting because we didn’t really see a huge amount of what the kids were doing. I was often, when they would be doing stuff, getting made up or de-made up or something would be going on so they would try and time it like that, so I didn’t really get to see a lot of what they were doing. I got to spend quite a lot of time particularly with Mitchell on the movie, and it was funny because Sabrina lives in L.A. now and she’s 13 going on 21. She’s incredibly mature and well above her years, and Mitchell is like I was when I was like 13. He’s a kid from Winnipeg, and he’s like a kid and he’s incredibly sweet. He’s awesome and I just like the fact that… Obviously, Mitch is blond naturally and he’s got much fairer hair than I do, and they dyed his hair on the first day. He went back to his hotel in Vancouver and nobody knew what he was doing, and then one of the girls just happened to say, ‘Oh you look like Harry Potter.’ That just made his day. He was so happy.

So, while Radcliffe didn’t necessarily take anything specifically from Kummen’s performance, he did illustrate how difficult it can be for casting directors to find an actor to play him as a younger person. Still, both Radcliffe and Kummen took the same character and made it their own in this movie. Thanks to their performances, we succeeded in getting the best of both worlds in “Horns.”

The 9th Life Of Louis Drax

the-9th-life-of-louis-drax

The 9th Life of Louis Drax” is a seriously confused movie. It is billed as a supernatural thriller, but it also contains elements of horror, fantasy, and it also has the essence of children’s movies in its DNA. Watching it was the equivalent of playing with a Transformers toy as a kid. While it was lots of fun to see it turn from one thing to another, I was constantly reminded of Robin Williams’ routine of playing with a Transformer while on drugs:

“It’s a truck, it’s a robot, it’s a… WHAT THE FUCK IS IT?”

Based on the best-selling novel by Liz Jensen, it delves into the strange and very troubled life of Louis Drax who was celebrating his ninth birthday when he suffers a near-fatal fall off of a cliff into the water below. As a result, he ends up in a coma from which he is never expected to awaken from. From there we are given a window into his short life which is full of endless mishaps and a truckload of dysfunction. His father Peter (Aaron Paul) is a caring dad and a self-destructive alcoholic, and his mother Natalie (Sarah Gadon) also cares deeply about her son even while she comes across a very cold fish. Into the picture comes prominent child psychologist Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan) who delves very deeply into Louis’ infinitely dysfunctional life to see if he can help the child rise out of his deep sleep.

Now I didn’t know much about “The 9th Life of Louis Drax” before I sat down in a darkened theater to watch it. Sometimes this proves to be an advantage as it keeps me from bringing unrealistic expectations to a motion picture, but with this movie I found myself at a complete disadvantage because I couldn’t figure out what it was trying to be. Was I watching a medical drama or a fantasy movie? I couldn’t say for sure, and my confusion was even more pronounced as the movie reached its honestly predictable conclusion.

The other problem is the Louis of the movie’s title is not altogether likable. Despite a strong performance by Aiden Longworth, he is more creepy than sympathetic or empathetic. While Louis certain didn’t deserve the fate which has befallen him, watching him in flashbacks acting all weird makes this film more cringe worthy than emotionally involving.

There’s also a rather twisted romance between Louis’ doctor, Dr. Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan), and his mother Natalie (Sarah Gadon). This all leads a lot of drama between and Allan and his wife to where it feels like we have entered another movie. Dornan looks almost as lifeless here as he did in “Fifty Shades of Grey” (he fares much better in “Anthropoid”), and Gadon has little more to do than look lovely and lost. Both Barbara Hershey and Oliver Platt appear in supporting roles as well, but they are wasted playing characters they can play in their sleep.

This is all a shame because “The 9th Life of Louis Drax” was directed by Alexandre Aja who gave us the blisteringly intense “High Tension” and the two of the best and most entertaining horror remakes in recent years, “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Piranha 3D.” With this film he looks to break free of the horror genre, and he does it give a striking look with the help if cinematographer Maxine Alexandre. But while its story is compelling, it features way too many elements to where the movie has no chance of being the least bit satisfying. Aja ran into the same problem with his last film “Horns” which, despite featuring another in a long line of strong performances from Daniel Radcliffe, had him failing to find a balance between its horror and comedic elements.

If there is one truly great thing about this movie, it is Aaron Paul. The “Breaking Bad” star pulls off a wonderfully complex performance as Louis’ father, Peter. While Peter at first looks like your typically drunk and neglectful father, Paul makes him into one cannot be easily judged. Despite his self-destructive tendencies, Peter proves to be the adult Louis needs in his increasingly dysfunctional life. Paul’s performance will no doubt remind viewers of his time as Jessie Pinkman, but it also shows them just how gifted an actor he is when given the right material.

By the time this movie reaches its “Sixth Sense” like ending, one which I couldn’t help but see coming a mile away, I was pretty much ready for it to be over. I have not read Jensen’s book, but I imagine she did a much better job of handling all the different elements of the story much better than everyone did here. “The 9th Life of Louis Drax” has the makings of a fabulous movie, but it stretches out in too many directions to where you don’t feel like you’re watching several different movies searching for the same cinematic plateau. Considering the talent involved behind the scenes, it should have been so much more.

Copyright Ben Kenber 2016.

* * out of * * * *

 

The Other Side Of The Door

The Other Side of the Door movie poster

The Other Side of the Door” is a lot like last year’s “The Lazarus Effect,” another movie dealing with the resurrection of the dead. Both movies have up and coming directors at the helm and a cast of talented actors eager to dig deep into the material. But while each movie gets off to a solid start to where we are utterly enthralled, they get weighed down by clichés and an inescapable familiarity which turns them into utter disappointments. What starts off as promising eventually becomes something stale and unoriginal, and “The Other Side of the Door” quickly becomes the kind of movie we have seen one too many times.

We are introduced to Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Michael (Jeremy Sisto), a loving American couple who decide to set up roots in India. But their joy of living in a foreign country is forever destroyed when their son Oliver (Logan Creran) is killed in a tragic car accident, and Maria cannot find a way to ease the pain of such a devastating loss. Their housekeeper Piki (Suchitra Pillai-Malik), however, tells Maria of a way she can say a last farewell to Oliver, and it involves spreading his ashes on the stairs of an ancient temple which is said to be close to the underworld, and she has to close the temple’s door and spend the night there. Eventually, Maria hears Oliver’s voice on the other side of the door and gets to talk to him one last time.

There’s a little catch to this plan though; Piki tells Maria that she cannot under any circumstances open the door during this conversation. You don’t even need to guess what happens next. Maria does indeed open the door, and in the process creates an unbalance between the worlds of the living and the dead. As a result, Oliver is brought back to the living as a ghost, and a horrific god gets unleashed who will soon wreak havoc on Maria and her family.

Like I said, this movie gets off to a promising start as it takes the themes of death and resurrection and applies mystical powers to them in a way I haven’t seen before. Usually in this genre the dead are buried in a sacred Indian ground or brought back to life with some amazing potion, but “The Other Side of the Door” takes a slightly different approach as it deals with mysticism. This helps to make it stand out from other movies of its type, but unfortunately it becomes bogged down by a familiarity which renders it average at best. In these movies the dead come back, and they are never the same as when they were alive. You know the drill.

It’s a shame because the actors cast here do terrific work in creating a believable couple trying to get through the worst thing any parent could ever live through. The real standout here is Sarah Wayne Callies who plays Maria as she makes her character’s pain and vulnerabilities all the more palpable. Best known for her work on “Prison Break” and “The Walking Dead,” she gives a really strong performance which is emotionally raw to where you cannot help but feel for her even as she makes big mistakes. Callies makes this movie worth watching as she almost makes you forget about what’s wrong with it.

“The Other Side of the Door” also benefits from the presence of Jeremy Sisto who plays Maria’s husband, Michael, as he makes him the kind of loving spouse anyone would be lucky to have. Like Callies, he brings a strong human presence to this movie as Michael does what he can to rescue Maria from her infinitely deep depression. Whereas most movies would have had this character acting like an ineffectual buffoon, Sisto makes Michael a believably decent human being who is trying to do the best he can.

But after the movie’s first act which has Oliver’s ghost begging for his mother to read him Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” it descends into “Pet Sematary” and “The Lazarus Effect” territory as the resurrected dead end up terrorizing those who loved them the most. Director Johannes Roberts, who previously directed the critically acclaimed thriller “F” and the sci-fi horror film “Storage 24,” does give us a number of undeniably creepy moments, but even he is unable to transcend this material which is all too familiar to horror movie fans.

When “The Other Side of the Door” reaches its conclusion, it ends on an ambiguous note like many horror movies do, but it just makes the whole movie feel more routine than it already is. All these movies about bringing the dead back to life always have the most innocent characters coming back as something purely evil, and they are filled with others who constantly stare at the protagonists as if to say, “You really screwed up and we’re not going to let you forget it.” It’s a shame because the movie had a lot of promise and some terrific performances, but in the end it just feels like the same old thing and becomes much less frightening as a result. Better luck next time.

Copyright Ben Kenber 2016

* * out of * * * *