1999, R, 90 min. Directed by Rodman Flender. Starring Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Elden Henson, Jessica Alba, Jack Noseworthy, Vivica A. Fox.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 30, 1999
Despite a negative (and entirely unfounded) pre-release buzz on this ghoulish horror-comedy from Roger Corman alum Flender, Idle Hands turns out to be a stylishly goofy take on the old possessed limb genre, referencing everything from the old Michael Caine vehicle The Hand to Evil Dead 2 and from Karl Freund's Mad Love to any number of old E.C. horror comics. Half the fun, I suspect, is in spotting the throwaway references with which Flender litters the film (George Romero gets two of his own), while the other half lies in the completely over-the-top gore (of which there is much, all creatively done) and blacker-than-black comedy. This sort of moist laff-in recalls the early, gooier work of Kiwi auteur Peter Jackson (Bad Taste, Dead/Alive) but with a more Americanized view of things. Sawa plays Anton, a dead-end slacker whose daily grind consists of little more than eating, sleeping, and watching cartoons on television while staying blissfully stoned 24/7. Things take a more interesting bent when Anton's right hand is suddenly possessed by an evil spirit one Halloween night, turning him into a psychotic killing machine who eventually does away with his parents, a pair of cops, and, regrettably, his two best buds, Mick (Green) and Pnub (Henson). On the plus side, Mick and Pnub are too stoned to be bothered with wandering off into that angelic, heavenly chorused light we've all heard about and instead elect to stick around earthside and see if they can't help their pal out of his predicament. As if that weren't enough trouble for poor Anton, Molly (Alba), the neighborhood bass-playing poet babe, has taken a shine to him and the school dance is coming up. What's a demon-possessed stoner (and his two phantom friends, rotting and decapitated) to do? Vivica A. Fox makes a Pam Grier-ish cameo as a nymphomaniacal demon hunter, but the point to Idle Hands -- if there is one -- is to gag the audience while keeping them rolling in the aisles, a talent Flender and his cast have in surprisingly large amounts. No manner of gory evisceration is left to the imagination and the stoner jokes fly as fast and furious as the red stuff. Once you get past the fact that this is sophomoric humor at its best and there's not going to be any hidden moral messages, as there are in so many teen-centric flicks these days, it's all a pleasantly silly, gleefully un-PC carnival ride (albeit one with plenty of cleaver action). Green (Fox's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Henson make an inspired comic team, Sawa has the befuddled stoner thing down pat, and Alba (Never Been Kissed) is, in a word, yummy. With a final, epic battle involving turbo-bongs and evil hand puppets, Idle Hands might just make it to cult movie status someday. Genuinely twisted and outlandishly stupid, it's that kind of movie, cinematic sinsemilla bathed in arterial hijinks.