Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Halloween Holocaust: Idle Hands (Rodman Flender, 1999)

This modest, but entertaining and well executed horror comedy gem apparently flopped when it was first released. The general consensus for what caused this, although admittedly impossible to prove, is widely held to be its ill-timing; it was released just ten days after the Columbine High School massacre. Admittedly, the film isn't a masterpiece (well, to me at least anyway), and there are, to be honest, some parts where I always end up thinking "I should really stick Evil Dead II on right now" whenever I watch it. Nonetheless, it still scores highly as one of those familiar but always reliable flicks to dig out whenever the Halloween season comes around; I'd say that it fairly well fits Quentin Tarantino's definition of a good hangout movie (to give an example, if you're unfamiliar with the term, QT considers Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused as possibly the greatest film of this type).

The story follows Anton Tobias (the excellent Devon Sawa, who also starred in Final Destination), a lackadaisical stoner (not that I've got room to judge) whose chronic (or should that be chronic fuelled?) laziness leads to him becoming a magnet for a discarnate, malevolent force that possesses one of his hands, turning him, in the process, into the proverbial "Devil's plaything". He's assisted throughout this troublesome episode by his perennially toasted buddies Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson) and the smoking hot, bass playing chick from across the street, Molly (Jessica Alba). Also along for the ride, although more intermittently, are fearless Druidic priestess/warrior Debi LeCure (Vivica A. Fox) and truck-driving, Motley Crue fan, Randy (Jack Noseworthy).

Whilst the movie comes down somewhat short on the horror/suspense side of things (although these elements are still reasonably well set-up and staged) it functions perfectly well as a lighthearted comedy romp. You could perhaps try and read into Anton's narrative arc and look for subtext, but I wouldn't bother, as it all feels a little inconsistent (not that it really matters). In fact, it's kind of cool that the film comes full circle in its seeming suggestions about marijuana use; weed actually ends up helping to save the day here (see also - Richard Stanley's brilliant, underrated sci-fi horror Hardware (1990)).  

Other elements worth noting include the film's soundtrack, which features Sublime, Rob Zombie and The Offspring (who also cameo as the band at the school Halloween dance); the occasional visual flair on display (I'm always a sucker for those seasonal coloured lights; green, red and orange gels aplenty here) and the obvious awareness of and reverence for the genre shown by the creators (any film which riffs on both Tenebre and The Shining within the space of, I think, less than a minute, is cool in my book). 

As I've suggested a few times already, this is a pretty light movie, to be sure, but that is, perhaps, precisely the basis of its appeal. As any genre fan surely knows, there are more than enough heavy horror films out there to put you through the proverbial wringer if that's what you're after. If, however, you want to stay within the genre, but remain relatively unscathed (emotionally speaking), then Idle Hands would be an ideal choice for an evening's viewing.  

No comments:

Post a Comment