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Idle Hands

Review by Elias Savada
Posted 30 April 1999

  Directed by Rodman Flender.

Starring Devon Sawa, Seth Green,
Vivica A. Fox, Elden Henson, Jessica Alba,
Jack Nosesworthy, Connie Ray, and Fred Willard.

Screenplay by Terri Hughes and Ron Milbauer.

Idle Hands is all thumbs. Ten of ‘em, black and blue and bloodied, all pointed down in deference of the Siskel and Ebert rating system. Yuck.

The first produced screenplay from Terri Hughes and Ron Milbauer is a mottle of rotting flesh stretched out between lame jokes on death, crotch sniffing digits, and splotches of gratuitous nudity, with unwanted formulaic pokes at Sam Raimi, John Landis, The Exorcist, and numerous other horror classics. This is either just the right combination to turn your stomach or, if you’re a teenager, make you want to see this film. Director Rodman Flender (Leprechaun 2, The Unborn) still appears to be cutting his teeth on the horror genre while retaining a high body count and shamelessly flaunting the drug culture.

The corpses begin falling early in the kitsch-saturated, Halloween-bedecked home of Anton Tobias (SLC Punk’s Devon Sawa), a 17-year-old slacker who sleeps oblivious to the connection between a local serial killer and the deadly dust balls beneath his parents’ bed. Ditzy Ma and Pa (Connie Ray and Fred Willard) see the writing on the ceiling "Im under the bed," unaware that a monstrous entity with horrible grammar is taunting them, the kind that terrorizes its victims by ridiculing them with missing apostrophes. In true selfless spirit, Anton doesn’t seem to mind the sudden absence of his folks the next morning, other than there’s no dog food or milk in the house. He has a bigger problem…he’s out of grass! So our pot-smoking couch-potato begs off a few hits from best buds, fellow losers, and dim-witted neighbors Mick (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Austin Powers’ Seth Green) and Pnub (The Mighty Ducks’ Elden Ratliff, now using the Elden Henson moniker as credited in She’s All That and The Mighty).

Meanwhile in Beaver, Utah…. Debi Liquor (luscious Vivica A. Fox, a.k.a. Will Smith’s squeeze in Independence Day) is a hot-to-trot exorcist in search of some devilish icons. Quicker than you can say "Triple-A," she looks a road map and plays a simpleton’s game of connect-the-dots that will lead her to Bolan, California, Anton’s hometown in her Airstream 290.

Speaking of that small California town, Anton finds his parents have been home all along, but somehow he couldn’t smell their decaying flesh. Gee, guess this is an anti-drug movie after all: "Don’t smoke dope -- decomposing bodies won’t smell like roses anymore!" Then again, the filmmakers make no attempt to explain away the fact that no one in this town seems to care that Anton’s folks are dead, as no one calls them on the phone. Yeah the police show up, briefly, but they have another agenda altogether.

Soon the orphan’s right hand takes on it’s own evil death grip that’s hard to unclench, much like an IRS audit. The slapstick continues when Anton whacks a soda bottle into the side of Mick’s forehead and frizbees a rotary saw blade through Pnub’s neck, his head rolling off and a nonchalant "kewl" seemingly its epithet. If you’re hoping for a quick exit for the boys, think again. For no apparent reason (there’s hardly any reason in or to this film, now that I think about it), they reappear as marblized zombies, perfectly costumed for the school’s Halloween party.

From here on out it’s a race against time as that crafty homicidal hand continues its killing spree towards its warped, idiotic, chiller theater end. There’s a sub-plot involving Anton’s fear of the opposite sex and his cautious courtship of next-door sexpot Molly (Jessica Alba), who unexpectedly appreciates her neighbor’s prankish pawing, in a purely Jekyll and Hyde sequence. In desperation, Anton seeks the advice of local punk Randy (Jack Noseworthy), who brown noses the harried teen and notes that "idle hands are the Devil’s playground." Duh. Coincidence teams Randy with exorcist/priestess Debi and the film gets hornier and wilder as it creeps its way to a Carriesque conclusion.

In my scrawl of notes I wrote "Can anyone explain this movie’s plot?" People who like this movie will retort "who cares?" For me, I’m throwing up my hands (both of them, attached). I’m sending Idle Hands straight to the video bin, where this Columbia release joins its studio sister Jawbreaker. I refuse to give the devil his tasteless due and you shouldn’t either.

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