You’d think a movie about a man literally becoming the Devil would be hard to screw up. But unfortunately, that’s what happens here. Daniel Radcliffe plays Ig, a man whose life is rapidly spiraling downward. He’s accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend a few months before the film begins. The entire town thinks he’s guilty but there’s no hard evidence, so for now, Ig is free to roam aimlessly around town, getting drunk nightly and sleeping with the local riff-raff, getting harassed by the cops, etc.
All that changes when he wakes up one morning with horns growing out of his head. The horns are not a delusion, they’re real, and when anyone else sees them they feel compelled to confess to Ig their deepest darkest secrets and desires, and ask him to allow them to act out on them. As it turns out, the Devil doesn’t really make you do it, he just gives you permission.
Now, this is a premise and a half. It’s based on a book of the same name by Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son, and Hill doesn’t hesitate to go deep and dark into people’s basest desires. The movie, unfortunately, doesn’t have that fearlessness. Ig is far more focused on using his new powers to find his girlfriend’s killer than to get revenge on the town that has turned against him. For an example, in the book, Ig’s thought to be loving wheelchair bound grandmother, while under the influence of the horns, tells Ig she hates him and is certain he’s a murderer and confesses she wishes her daughter had aborted him. In response, Ig releases the brakes on her wheelchair and pushes her down a hill. In the movie, this character doesn’t even exist. Also, in the story, two cops, certain Ig’s guilty, take every opportunity to harass him and physically rough him up. The horns compel one cop to confess to Ig his desires to go down on the other cop, while the other cop tells Ig he would likely kill any man who tried such a thing. Ig of course compels them to do just that. In the movie, the same scene plays out with both men admitting their love for one another and passionately kissing under Ig’s influence. The Devil is a romantic, apparently.
And that’s the way it goes throughout. Almost every punch is pulled to make anti-hero Ig into a misunderstood nice guy, and for a good 50% of the film, the premise is nearly abandoned entirely, in place of a substandard murder mystery. There are some good moments. There’s a five minute set-piece in the middle of the movie where Ig is allowed to really let loose and use his horns to do some damage on the town, another great sequence featuring a massive drug overdose, and Radcliffe himself is quite good, with a flawless American accent, but for the most part, everything falls flat. Also, if you don’t know who the real killer is within the first ten minutes, you lose your movie-watching privileges for the rest of the year.