The stoner comedy is a genre I personally think doesn’t age particularly well. You can see my point, right? Goofy movies filled with lovable losers putting their responsibilities on hold in order to get up to childish shenanigans tend to stop being relevent the second the weight of the world gets its hooks into you and you start racking up mortgages and kids and stuff. With this in mind, imagine all the hard work Idle Hands has to put in considering as it’s a stoner horror comedy, a potent mixture that among all the bong hitting and munchie eating also slips in demonic possession and heaps of gore to boot.
Well, if you haven’t experienced its pleasures before, allow to introduce you now to Idle Hands: arguably the best horror stoner comedy you’ve probably never heard of – so exhale deep, hail Satan and enjoy.
To quote an early Simpsons episode, sloth-like teen Anton Tobias is an underachiever and proud of it. Never happier than when getting blasted off his ass thanks to his heroic weed intake, even his stoner friends Mick and Pnub voice the concept that maybe he partakes a little too hard, something the slobbish Anton brushes off without much of a thought. However, the Devil makes work for idle hands (which works out great considering that’s the title of the film) and thanks to Anton’s terminally lazy ways, the evil of Satan has actually managed to possess one of his hands and is using it to enact a killing spree across town.
After the wayward appendage slaughters his friends, Anton takes refuge with Molly, the quirky girl he has the major hits for, but after returning to the scene of the crime he is confronted by the zombiefied bodies of his best buds who are cursed, American Werewolf style, to walk the earth until the hand’s curse is lifted.
Meanwhile, badass druidic priestess Debi LeCure is on a quest to stop this evil force which has been leaping from the digits of layabout to layabout to wreak carnage up and down the country and with the help of Anton’s jerkwad neighbour Randy aims to eradicate this evil once and for all.
Predictably making things far more difficult for everyone is Anton’s plan to sever his murderous member and shove the damned thing into the microwave – of course this only results the the killer hand now being mobile and able to continue mauling more victims without having to drag Anton’s worthless ass around after it.
Heading to the school’s Halloween dance with the intent of dragging Molly’s soul to hell, Anton, Mick and Pnub shrug off their sedentary lifestyle and head off to fight the forces of evil and… you know… do stuff.
Essentially the possessed hand stuff from Evil Dead 2 stretched to feature length with an added influx of psychoactive drugs, Idle Hands is a raucous comedy full of neat touches and cool shit that’s far more innovative than you’d expect from a movie that sees Seth Green chucking cheesy poofs at a severed head.
Goofy as hell and wilfully stupid, Idle Hands is an incredibly fun time thanks to the impressive amount of thought and detail that’s obviously gone into crafting something to be as cool as possible. The film has a bright, colourful, comic book look that matches its ridiculous concept nicely and the movie’s inpressive effects go all out to realise the hilariously overblown carnage. Behold all the various didn’t techniques utilized by Greg (Blade, Bram Stoker’s Dracula) Cannom’s latex flinging underlings purely to create Pnub’s headless state alone, let alone everything else the movie has to throw at you – and make no mistake, Idle Hands has a lot to throw at you. Be it a climatic school dance massacre that sees the cameoing lead singer of The Offsping get scalped in what might be the most 90’s screen death ever filmed, to the subtler moments like the sound of liquid sloshing about in the bottle used to kill Seth Green’s Mick, the movie consistently over achieves despite being about the perils of being too lazy.
Perfecting the cartoonish atmosphere is the massively game cast fronted by Final Destination’s Devon Sawa who somehow manages to make this potentially reprehensible character likable (Anton hasn’t noticed that his parents have been missing for seven days and gets laid by the hot girl next door immediately after wiping his best friends off the face of the earth) and busts out some truly deft Bruce Campbell style physical comedy when trying to subdue his killer appendage. However, stealing scenes like a couple of cinematic kleptomaniacs are the double act of Green and Eldon Henson (Foggy Nelson in Netflix’s Daredevil), who’s bizarre appearances and killer line delivery is the heart of the movie. Their snappy dialogue is virtually endless and its frankly stunning that Green and Henson had never known each other prior despite their obvious chemistry – watch Mick figure out that an incriminating piece of cloth has been torn from Anton’s clothing only to announce “The killer was wearing your shirt!” or the two zombie slacker’s response to opting out of eternal peace due to the distance of the entrance to heaven (“We thought fuck it. It was really far.”).
Not everything works. Even for a silly, stoner comedy, Jessica Alba’s Molly is an blatantly unrepentant male fantasy who is mysteriously into Anton despite him obviously being in a complete state even before he’s unwillingly started killing people and who mistakes his grasping devil-hand as him merely being sexually forward – which, of course, she’s totally up for. Plus, what with this movie being a slacker comedy from the 90’s, you’re obviously going to have to weather the odd casually homophobic reference or two, not to mention a whole clutch of horny characters of both sexes being overly forward (Pnub makes out with a comely party goer while keeping the detail that he’s deader than zombie shit to himself) but it’s all childish stuff and nothing too troubling.
Essentially dropping off the end of the earth soon after release, I feel Idle Hands is a movie that’s still yet to be knighted with the cultdom it truly deserves and is a movie that holds up surprisingly well despite being over twenty years old.
Some will treat this flick as adolescent garbage (its Rotten Tomatoes score isn’t flattering in the least), but I’ve always championed the film as endearing and genuinely funny – how the hell can you not love a movie where a severed killer hand attacks someone while wearing a bug eyed glove puppet?
Idle Hands works hard due to the efforts of some gruesomely magic fingers.