There was something of a resurgence in the teen horror genre following the popularity of Scream, but sadly most of it felt like Party of Five with a body count, lacking much in the way of wit, intelligence, style, gore, or gratuitous nudity. Thankfully a few gems also managed to sneak through, & although it failed to find its deserved audience, Idle Hands is rather better than many other teen horrors of late.
Devon Sawa (Final Destination) stars as Anton, a slacker who spends his time stoned & generally hanging out with his two mates, Mick (Seth Green) & Pnub (Elden Henson, with a great character name). He has long harboured desires for the beautiful girl who lives across the street, played by Jessica Alba. So far, so bog-standard. But then Anton’s hand gets possessed (“Idle Hands are the Devil’s Playground”), & he finds himself an unwitting murderer.
It’s a patently daft plot that could probably have fallen flat if it had been played straight, so director Rodman Flender wisely pitches the film more as a black comedy. There are a couple of vaguely menacing scenes of horror, but the humour is by far the most prominent thing. And funny it is too, with several gleefully loopy laugh out loud moments amongst the edgy sly wit. It’s aided considerably in this respect by some well-judged performances that tend to play it straight, rather than mugging for the camera. Particular mention must go to the ever-likeable Green, & Henson who play off each other extremely well. Alba makes for a supremely foxy & forthright romantic interest, & both Jack Noseworthy and Vivica A. Fox (as a funky religious nut who’s the only person who knows what’s going on) make their mark. But it’s really Sawa’s film, & he gives a hugely likeable physical performance. If Bruce Campbell remains the King of possessed hand acting, then Sawa can lay claim to being the Prince, with one particularly dexterous moment involving a TV remote a highlight.
Cinematographer Christopher Baffa, who works with Flender to give the film a very colourful look clearly inspired by the films of Argento & Bava, lights the film gorgeously. Graeme Revell contributes a strong score with a clear debt to the electronic sound-worlds of John Carpenter & Goblin. In fact, the film is littered to references to other horror films (mostly of the 70’s & 80’s), & this is probably the films’ biggest failing. There’s a thin line between being steeped in horror history with witty referencing, & simply being excessively derivative, & Idle Hands doesn’t always stay on the tight rope.
To sum up then, Idle Hands is a fun & entertaining little film that has been unfairly neglected. It has a level of wit, style & invention that marks it out from other recent teen horror fare &, whilst it’s certainly no life changer, there are far worse ways to spend an hour & a half.
I’ve been watching the UK R2/PAL DVD, which comes with a very strong 1.78:1 anamorphic picture, & an absolutely cracking Dolby 5.1 audio track. There’s also a German audio track, & more subtitle options than you’ll know what to do with. For extras, the film does really well. There’s an entertaining commentary with Rodman Flender, Seth Green & Elden Henson in which they don’t take it too seriously, Flender points out all the times he steals from Argento, & Green ruthlessly takes the piss out of how much money the film didn’t make. You also get a reasonable but short documentary, storyboard comparisons for two key scenes, & a very tasty alternate ending, that goes probably too far into pure horror to sit easily alongside the rest of the film. You also get a trailer that doesn’t make the film look overly impressive & perhaps gives away a touch too much. The features seem to be identical on the US disc.