Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Idle Hands (1999)
Dimension Home Video | Review by Dan Taylor

Idle Hands starring Jessica AlbaMost horror/comedy combos these days have a tendency to lean a little more towards the "comedy" end of that equation. Come on, were there any scary moments in any of the HOUSE flicks, TALES FROM THE CRYPT (other seeing Corey Feldman AND Dennis Miller have millisecond career revivals?), the entire RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD series, or FRIGHT NIGHT? And while I might be a big fan of NEAR DARK and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, they feature more of that hip, ironic comedy that all the kids love today, not real laugh-out-loud gut-busters to go along with the scream at the top-of-your-lungs busted guts.

So, I was pretty jazzed when the wild and whacky Rodman Flender was pegged to helm IDLE HANDS, a teen-horror/comedy for the dazed and confused high school generation. In other words, THE HAND MEETS BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD.

For those of you just slightly out of the loop, Flender has been one of our favorite up-and-comers in recent years, Flender-izing such offerings as THE UNBORN, LEPRECHAUN 2 and TV's 'Party of Five'! For the first time in a loooong time I figured I had a reason to be excited about horror cinema.

Unfortunately, IDLE HANDS had the misfortune to be released within a week or so of the national freak-out that took hold when two teenage misfits opened fire in their Colorado high school and talied a pretty a miserable kill rate before they tasted the business end of their own guns. Good riddance. Suddenly, a movie about murdering your high school classmates wasn't quite so hilarious.

But enough about teenage angst surfacing as homicidal rage. How's the flick? Anton (Devon Sawa) is a bored stoner whose folks (including dad Fred Willard) fail to see that their once-cute kid has turned into a doped-out, go-nowhere loser who sits around smoking bowls out of his asthma inhaler while he listens to heavy metal and watches cartoons. (Wait a second, that sounds like my college years if you just change that to "skinny drunk who lays around sucking back cheap beer and screw-cap wine while hardcore punk drowns out the screams of the on-screen victims.")

Anton's chief cohorts in this merry suburban world are his buds played by Seth Green and Elden Henson, the new Abbot & Costello if I've ever seen 'em! These two appear to be even less motivated in life than Anton, if that's possible, though they do have a mean collection of bongs.

This strange brew of a concept (apologies to the Mackenzie Brothers) comes to a rather bizarre head when Anton's parents turn up quite dead in a loving homage to 'American Gothic' and all the clues point to their dazed offspring. When his pals have the misfortune of being there when the bodies are discovered, Anton's possessed hand takes over and whacks his friends ... who promptly rise from the grave and continue their wise-cracking ways.

Oh, and did I mention that Anton's also got a crush on the neighborhood bitch ass, the lyric-writing, exotic-looking hottie played by the cute-as-a-button Jessica Alba (now starring in FOX's DARK ANGEL)? Well, he does, and that leads to much whacky hijinks as Anton pursues the boner-inducing Alba while he tries to keep his hand from killing her – and everybody in the high school.

The culmination is the high school's Halloween Dance, where Anton, Alba, his zombified pals and some other characters that seem written in or cut back (Vivica A. Fox as a demon chaser and Jack Noseworthy as her Todd-like, metal-loving tag-along) all meet to the sounds of The Offspring.

Schizophrenic and mediocre, IDLE HANDS is almost instantly forgettable, except for Alba's appearace in bra and panties towards the film's conclusion. Not worth the price of a full rental, but catch it on cable.

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