`Idle Hands' is murder on the brain

Review: Goofy horror film goes for the jugular, but chokes to death on its own self-consciousness.

April 30, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF


It's hard to think of a film that relies more on dumb than "Idle Hands," a horror-movie spoof about a bunch of brain-dead slackers who fall victim to a possessed human hand with murder on its mind (or whatever a hand uses to think).

Not that dumb is necessarily bad; the Farrelly brothers have become millionaires off the concept.

But the folks responsible for this mess make the characters in "There's Something About Mary" look like nuclear physicists. The result is a one-joke gorefest aimed squarely at the MTV crowd.

The main player here is a chronically pot-smoking, channel-surfing dude named Anton (Devon Sawa), who's so busy watching buxom babes on cable TV that he doesn't realize there's a murderer running loose around town. His blissful ignorance may have continued forever, save for two unfortunate events.

First, he runs out of pot and has to actually walk out of the house (no small exertion for Anton), cross the street and pay a visit to his suppliers, a pair of like-minded potheads named Mick and Pnub (Seth Green and Elden Henson), who between tokes tell their friend about the continuing carnage.

Then, two more murder victims pop up -- Anton's parents. And the real bummer is, Anton's the killer.

More precisely, Anton's right hand is the killer; seems it's possessed by some ancient demon that's into human sacrifice.

In spite of Anton's best efforts to the contrary, the hand continues on its homicidal way, beginning with Mick and Pnub.

Great carnage ensues, played for an uneasy mixture of laughs and gore by director Rodman Flender, an honors graduate of the Roger Corman school of low-budget, high-energy filmmaking. As a horror flick, "Idle Hands" is pretty lame stuff, filled with fake frights and snide asides to horror films that have come before (isn't it time to call a halt to such "Scream"-inspired self-awareness? Please?). What it doesn't stint on is gore; an early scene of a cat chowing down on an eyeball kinda sets the mood.

And while the film has its funny moments, they're all so much alike that watching it is akin to hearing Henny Youngman say "Take my wife, please" over and over again. You stop laughing about the 10th go-round, smiling about the 20th, noticing about the 30th.

Yeah, these kids are thick as bricks, and yeah, all they care about is having a good time, and yeah, a vocabulary that consists of myriad variations on "Man, that is so cool" can make for a chuckleheaded good time. But is it really worth plunking down seven bucks?

The cast is of mostly unknown young actors who seem to enjoy their work. Green (the werewolf on TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and Henson are a hoot as friends who refuse to hold a grudge, even after Anton offs them.

Jessica Alba, as Anton's extremely unfortunate girlfriend, is lovely and sexy and clueless (pretty much a stock character in these films). And Vivica A. Fox camps it up enjoyably as the priestess who knows how to handle this particular spirit.

You also have to give the film credit for never flinching; when human flesh gets popped in the microwave, "Idle Hands" shows the result, in all its gruesome detail.

But saying the film deserves credit is hardly the same as saying it deserves an audience.

`Idle Hands'

Starring Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Elden Henson and Jessica Alba

Directed by Rodman Flender

Released by Columbia

Rated R (horror, violence and gore, pervasive teen drug use, language and sexuality) Running time: 92 minutes

Sun score: * 1/2

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