On Idle Hands

Featuring Devon Sawa (Final Destination), Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Jessica Alba (Fantastic Four film series), and Vivica A. Fox (Independence Day, Batman & Robin), Idle Hands is a stoner dark comedy body horror film directed by Rodman Flender, and written by Terri Hughes and Ron Milbauer.

Notably, the film features the band, The Offspring, which was popular at the time and had several music videos I was rather fond of. “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” is a particular favorite, of course.

It was also parodied on Robot Chicken‘s “Idle Nuts”sketch in the Season 2 episode, Dragon Nuts. Robot Chicken was created, written, and produced by Seth Green. According to the Under the Gun review:

We have passed the halfway mark of the month of April and that means there is a counterculture (is that even still a thing?) holiday fast approaching. On the 20th of April the date will be 4/20, provided you do dates the same way as we do in the U.S., and that means that all the stoners of North America will collectively get off their couches long enough to group up and show some support for the green herb they love so much. I am not kidding, this happens every year and the scale of it always amazes me.

With such a large number of people identifying with the marijuana counterculture movement it would be silly to assume there would not be a genre of movies made specifically for stoners. There have been great stoner films over the years including Cheech & Chong’s Up In Smoke, Dazed And Confused, Half Baked, and Pineapple Express, but like any other genre of movie there will also be awful stoner films. When I was a kid (well before I even knew what pot was) I rented Idle Hands and I thought it was hilarious. Now that I am older (and more familiar with pot) I watched it again and discovered while it may not be the great movie I remember it is still worth watching, especially if you are stoned.

Idle Hands is your run of the mill possessed hand that kills people movie. The difference from all the other ones (which I am sure you are remembering fondly) is that the person that owns the possessed hand happens to be a stoner kid named Anton. After he realizes that he is responsible for the murders happening around him his hand starts to get really out of control and kills his friends (played by Seth Green and Eldon Henson). Instead of going to heaven his friends come back as undead creatures because “…fuck it, I mean, it was really far!”

Anton decides to cut his hand off to save himself which leads to a possessed hand running (crawling?) around killing people at the high school Halloween dance. This has something to do with Jessica Alba who lives across the street and is sort of dating Anton. The plot is kind of hazy, as I imagine the creators were more concerned with taking care of their munchies than writing something that made a lot of sense. It does not matter, a logical plot is not why you watch horror movies, and especially not stoner horror comedies.

If you are looking for a good scary movie with some laughs this is not it. That being said there are some great horror moments. While it is lacking in scares or surprises, Idle Hands does have a decent amount of gore. One of the main characters is a decapitated head and there is a severed hand causing all sorts of mayhem. It definitely earned it’s R rating before any dialogue or drug use. Even the lead singer for The Offspring manages to have his scalp ripped right off, revealing the genius brain that came up with “Self Esteem” and “The Kids Aren’t Alright”.

Now as far as comedy goes this film is going to be hit or miss. Most of the laughs come from zany physical comedy or stoner jokes. However, if that kind of humor is not your cup of tea you do not need to worry, Seth Green is there to make it all better. His character says some of the funniest things in the entire movie, including a line at the end that had me laughing so hard I almost threw up. Do I really even need to sell you on this? You know Seth Green is hilarious, quit acting like you are above his humor. Plus, he is dead throughout nearly the whole movie so you get some great zombie jokes too.

Idle Hands definitely does not get the recognition it deserves. It may live on as a “cult” movie, but as far as comedy/horror goes it is near the top. Everyone remembers the last few Scary Movie entries but not enough people remember Idle Hands. Make sure you celebrate 4/20 right and give this movie a play sometime this weekend. Have fun kids, and remember, no one dies from too much weed.

Finally, according to the BuzzFeed article, “16 Reasons Why “Idle Hands” Is An Awesome Movie“:

1. Devon Sawa

It has Devon Sawa as Anton, owner of the possessed hand. Even better, it has ’90s Devon Sawa, who is by far the best Devon Sawa.

2. Devon Sawa’s Acting

This might be his best acting, and certainly the most physical comedy he’s done. We almost believe he has no control over his right hand.

3. The Hand

The Hand is just all kinds of fucked up and creepy. It continues to kill even after Anton cuts it off. All of the “hand”-iwork was done by Christopher Hart, the man behind Thing in the ’90s take of The Addams Family.

4. Slackers/Stoners

Slackers/stoners were big in the ’90s. In this case, being a slacker leads to Anton’s hand becoming possessed.

5. Seth Green

Seth Green, a key component in ’90s teen film, is in top form as Mick, best friend turned zombie.

6. Elden Henson (aka That Guy From The Mighty Ducks)

Elden Henson plays Anton’s headless zombified friend, Pnub. He is also the winner of having the most fun name to say. You may recognize him as Fulton Reed from The Mighty Ducks.

7. Jessica Alba

Jessica Alba plays Molly, Anton’s object of desire. She is a biker chick and a poet. Very ’90s cool.

8. Vivica A. Fox as a Badass

Vivica A. Fox plays Debi, a druidic high priestess on a mission to find and destroy the murderous hand. She is by far the toughest character in the movie. Girl Power, indeed.

9. Man’s Best Friend

This is not only a story of a man and his right hand, it is also a story of a man and his dog. When Anton is scared at the beginning of the film, his trusty dog is there with him all the way.

10. ’90s Music

The soundtrack is full of awesome ’90s music, including a bloody cameo by none other than The Offspring. Speaking of musical cameos, Tom Delonge from Blink-182 shows up as a drive-thru employee. There is also a cameo by Ricky Martin as a background teenager.

11. It’s Ridiculous

…in the best way possible. You’ve got to love a movie that provides scenes like this one.

12. It’s Funny

Idle Hands is genuinely funny.

13. It’s Gory

The blood and gore is over the top in a way that allows it to be darkly funny instead of just gross.

14. It’s Creepy

Admit it: this would creep you out IRL. (Fun fact: Anton’s mother is played by Connie Ray, who played the mother on The Torkelson’s, a ’90s Disney Channel show.)

15. Marijuana Saves the Day

Like any good stoner movie, marijuana, while being part of the problem, is also part of the solution. Yes, the hand gets high somehow, which ultimately leads to its demise.

16. A Lesson

Like any good cheesy movie, they even say the title! This line is pretty much the movie in a nutshell. So, keep busy! (But if a murderous spirit DOES possess your hand, marijuana and a druidic priestess just may save the day.

According to Roger Ebert:

“Idle Hands” samples other teen horror movies like a video DJ with a tape deck, exhibiting high spirits and a crazed comic energy. It doesn’t quite work, but it goes down swinging–with a disembodied hand. The hand, which has a mind of its own, has been chopped off the arm of a teenage kid who is the victim of some kind of weird Halloween demonic possession.

The film involves the adventures of Anton (Devon Sawa), a pothead so addled he doesn’t notice for a few days that his parents are dead–the victims of an evil power that writes “I’m under the bed” on the ceiling of their bedroom, and is. Anton’s chief occupations are getting high and hanging out with his friends Mick and Pnub, who live in a nearby basement. The three of them are dropouts from all possible societies, and their world is like a cross between “SLC Punk!” and “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.” (If neither one of those titles rings a bell, the movie undoubtedly won’t, either.) The possessed killer hand is, of course, lifted from “Evil Dead 2,” but it wasn’t original there, and has its origins in such films as “The Hand” and “The Beast With Five Fingers.” Rodman Flender, who directed this film, has fun with it in a scene where Anton is on a date with the babe of his dreams, Molly (Jessica Alba), and tries to fight down the hand as it tries to throttle her. Finally, he ties it to the bed. Molly, who is not very observant, translates this as kinky. Anton finally rids himself of the hand (it’s chopped off in the kitchen, with the wound cauterized by an iron). His pals Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson, from “The Mighty”) have worse luck. Mick is taken out by a beer bottle, which remains embedded in his skull for the rest of the movie. Pnub loses his head altogether and carries it in his hands until Anton figures out how to mount it on his shoulders using a barbecue fork. Don’t ask. Both of them continue through the entire film as the living dead.

Vivica A. Fox plays the demon buster, tracking down alarming manifestations and delivering the single best line of dialogue: “Well, my work here is done. Time for the ritualistic sex.” The plot involves her pursuit only absentmindedly, however, since most of the big scenes involve comic gore: disembodied eyeballs, unusual biological processes, body parts discovered in unexpected ways, etc. There’s no really convincing comic inspiration behind the f/x scenes, however, and although we might laugh at some of the goofiness, a movie like this works best when the effects are a means, not an end.

The movie has energy and is probably going to attract a young audience, especially on video, since the R rating will keep away some viewers in its target audience, which is junior high school boys. After the Colorado tragedy, some commentators have wondered if movies like this aren’t partly responsible. I don’t think we have to worry about “Idle Hands.” Kids understand this kind of macabre comedy–which is in the ancient horror spoof tradition–and they don’t take it seriously; any viewer capable of being influenced by such silly gags would have to be deeply disturbed already. The only thing this movie is likely to inspire a kid to do is study Fangoria magazine to find out how the special effects were achieved.

 

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