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Wayback Wednesday: Idle Hands (1999)

My gateway movie to stoner comedies.

I’m not usually one for stoner-comedy movies. It’s a niche genre but it’s one that has its devoted fans, ones who will recommend you see some of the oddest movies ever put to film. Although I’ve seen the odd movie from the genre, I’ve never been able to get into the humour or the content. Although that’s most likely because I have never in my life done a weed. However, as even the most casual reader of this blog can attest to, throw a horror story of any kind my way and I’m a happy camper. Idle Hands (1999) is a fun little horror-comedy that is the perfect bridge between genres. It’s a quirky blend of both worlds, creating a final product that stands apart from the majority of what you see. I love when a movie has a distinct tone and voice, one that makes it an inimitable standout, and that’s exactly what Idle Hands is. It’s clear to see why this movie has its audience of loyal fans. 

Credit: imdb.com / Sony Pictures Releasing

Idle Hands tells the story of Anton Tobias, a slacker teenager whose right hand becomes possessed by a demonic force. Suddenly the laidback Anton is involuntarily taken on a killing spree as his possessed hand leads acts on its murderous intentions.

What I largely found most appealing about Idle Hands is how its premise is straight out of a cheesy 1950s B movie – ahhh, a killer hand! – but modernized and put against the backdrop of a 1990s teen comedy. That in itself sets viewers up for the kind of campy, silly movie Idle Hands is, a parody of the horror genre or at least a movie that isn’t afraid to take the piss out of the clichés and tropes found in the genre. It’s satirical to the point where in a weird way, it almost feels like Clueless (1995) for stoners. You know how Clueless masterfully lampoons the 90s, Californian teen lifestyle? In a strange way, Idle Hands applies the same lens to the horror genre. It makes for a fun, nonsensical viewing experience, one where you are rest assured that the movie knows what it’s doing from start to finish. 

Idle Hands is s gory as it is irreverent which is saying something because the movie satisfyingly delivers on both accounts. In terms of wackiness, I’d say that it’s on the same wavelength as Scary Movie (2000) just more subtle with how it pokes fun at horror movies. There were times where the plot and the broad physical comedy reminded me of a quality Halloween episode of a solid sitcom. I appreciate that Idle Hands is not just a horror movie, but one that explicitly takes place on Halloween as well. This would be such a fun movie to watch on Halloween night! Not only do I want to watch it again next Halloween, but I think I may even want a DVD copy of Idle Hands, which is the highest praise a movie can get from me. 

Devon Sawa should be honoured to be considered a low-key horror / Halloween star. From Idle Hands, to Final Destination (2000), to Casper (1995) – check out my review, here – he manages to be in spooky movies that people love to rewatch. This movie is something of a cult classic and I believe that Sawa’s endearing lead performance as Anton is a large part of what makes this movie so  loved. Sawa is great at playing a hapless dummy. There’s an art form to playing someone so clueless and he pulls it off wonderfully. Sometimes he just had to plaster a bewildered look on his face and I was giggling. Major props to his physical comedy skills because there were times where his hand truly felt like a totally separate killer entity.

The casting in Idle Hands is commendable. Sawa, Seth Green and Elden Henson (who play Anton’s two best friends) share a playful chemistry that’s hard to come by. Their rapport is a highlight of the movie and some of the best scenes are of the three of them working together to stop the hand or even just hanging out. Green continues to always deliver, making him on of those unsung actors that just fills me with glee when I see him show up in a movie or television series. If I were everyone in this cast I’d be proud to be in this movie. Even Jessica Alba! I’m sure the scene of her riding a motorcycle was supposed to look cool but oh wow, it was funny and laughable as Hell. 

At no point during my watch did I know where Idle Hands was going to go. Which is not only great for a movie in general, but especially fantastic for a horror movie. This is one of those movies that keeps your attention throughout, constantly upping itself when it comes to the comedy and the horror. Is it the smartest or the scariest or the best? No. But there’s a playfulness and a charm to this movie that makes it worth a watch, maybe even two. Look, if a movie about a demonic killer hand doesn’t spark some kind of interest in you, than I’m not sure what to say. You must be high. 

Have you seen Idle Hands?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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