Idle Hands


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"Watch the head. It's on kinda loose "

Feb 25th, 2010

Back in the days of the video rental shop (get over it they're dead) this was the main way to find out about new films. Sure the blockbusters were advertised on TV and you may have caught a few previews at the cinema but you found most gems by accident. While in your local store (mine was called Gemini) you may pass by a strange new tape on the shelf, or more likely you were forced to sit through the 15minutes of ads on your weekend purchase, you would see something that sparked your interest. The latter was how I found Idle Hands.

Even with all this talk of the good old days of VHS when I eventually tracked down a copy it was one of my first DVD purchases (£25.99! What a rip off DVD's used to be). The trailer sold me instantly, packed with goofball humour, a bizarre storyline and what looked like huge quantities of violence it screamed cult hit. When I actually saw the film all the above were true but it was a slightly different experience to what I expected. The trailer had been cut together using deleted scenes, why do film studios feel the need to dupe the audience with movie trailers?

Released in 1999 it's cast was populated by teenage (they weren't actually teenagers but that's Hollywood for you) stars of the 90's, Devon Sawa, hot off his starring role in the first Final Destination, Seth Green, who was in everything at the time (come to think of it he still pops up quite a bit on TV) and a fresh faced Jessica Alba before her starring role on Dark Angel. These were all people I was a fan of but I know many out there can't stand them on their own, let alone mass populating one film. Perhaps that's one of the reasons not many have heard of this one?

I actually find it hard to do a run down of the plot as it actually splits personality three times as the movie progresses. This is not a bad thing as it actually flows really well but I can see why certain aspects of the storyline are revealed in the trailer, as well as any synopsis you may find on the flick. Beware, below I will give away minor spoilers to the plot, but nothing that will ruin your enjoyment.

Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa) is a lazy stoner who does nothing but sit around and watch TV all day, even while he's meant to be at school. After Anton's parents are murdered by a mysterious killer it's up to him and his two friends Mick and Pnub (that name is epic) to figure out who it is.

SPOILERS coming up. I know this doesn't sound too engaging and you'd be right but this is actually only the first 20mins of the film. The real fun comes into play when we discover that Anton is actually responsible for the murders, well not explicitly. Anton's right hand has become possessed by the Devil (idle hands are the Devil's plaything) and after murdering his two friends they return as zombie guides to cure Anton of his affliction.

The story is as nutty as they come but is so unique you keep watching to see where it' going to go next. Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson) really serve no function as their actions never contribute to the main storyline but they add a fun dynamic as they critique the clichéd moments. The fact that they have returned from the grave is never given an explanation other than the walk to Heaven was too far, but it hardly matters when were dealing with an evil hand. Devon Sawa achieves the impossible and convinced me that his hand was a separate entity; his physical performance is amazing as he behaves in complete opposition to his right arm's movements. Jessica Alba has nothing to contribute other than eye candy but she does look good in an angel outfit (I forgot to mention a huge portion of the film takes place at a Halloween dance).

Of course there are a lot more twists and turns in the story but I just don't want to ruin the fun as there is nothing like this around. Let me just say it has a fantastic finale which suits the film perfectly even though it is quite anticlimactic on purpose.

In truth this falls more in the comedy genre than horror but it's rare to find a film that blends horror and comedy well. The lines of dialogue are classic and even groan worthy but are delivered with such energy you can't help but smile "I'm gonna go call 911. What's the number?". The only other films I can think of that achieve this are Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (yes I consider this a horror, it's extremely gory and follows a serial killer despite it's action elements).

Sure, not everything is great and a lot of the jokes can step into the realm of bad taste but the whole film is quite light-hearted and most of the kills are on people you don't have time to develop an attachment for. When the characters Mick and Pnub start making jokes about Anton's dead parents it reminded me that Anton had actually slaughtered his family which isn't really that funny a concept. On top of that what kind of friends take the piss out of your bereavement? It's like turning up to a funeral in a clown's outfit (actually that's quite a funny image).

The soundtrack is fantastic, I may be a little biased here as I am a huge fan of rock music but this is impressive. From Rob Zombie to The Ramones we get a little of everything and of course a cameo from The Offspring didn't hurt either. The original score isn't half bad and serves the scenes of horror well.

The violence is so over the top it's comical but the blood does flow to such an extent that this film rightly deserves its 18 certificate. From decapitations to knitting needles through the ear everything is shown on screen. My favourite kill actually comes late in the film when the evil hand manages to kill the lead singer of the school band (which just happens to be the Offspring's front man Dexter Holland) via scalping. It's rare that you find a scalping on film.

One little extra about the ending, the one used is totally different to how it was originally intended. If you buy this on DVD you get the original ending which is a whopping 25 minutes long but I'm actually glad they went back and changed it. As I mentioned before this whole film works really well as a comedy and the original ending was standard horror climax stuff, not that there's anything wrong with that but it just didn't fit the tone. Well done to the makers for changing it.

This is a great film that very few have heard of and continually puts me in a good mood no mater how many times I watch it. I really recommend any who haven't seen this to check it out but don't go in expecting high class. Argento this is not. 8/10

Trivia
Filmed in the same town as the original Halloween
The film's failure is suggested to be due to being released right after the Columbine High School massacre
In one scene Anton's dog has an erection – see if you can spot it (it's like a dirty Where's Wally challenge)

Director: Rodman Flender
Screenplay: Terri Hughes, Ron Milbauer
Released: 1999
Rating: 18
Starring: Jessica Alba, Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Elden Henson, Vivica A. Fox


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