Color, 1999, 90 mins.

Directed by Rodman Flender

Starring Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Elden Ratliff, Jessica Alba, Christopher Hart, Vivica A. Fox / Music by Graeme Revell / Written by Terri Hughes & Ron Milbauer

Format: DVD - Columbia (MSRP $24.95)

Letterboxed (1.85:1) (16x9 enhanced) / Dolby Digital 5.1

Along with the spring season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the horror comedy Idle Hands became smothered by the national hysteria surrounding the Columbine high school shootings. Of course, a terrible, misleading trailer and unappealing poster design didn't really help matters, and not surprisingly, the movie disappeared quickly from theaters. Hopefully home video will help rectify the problem, and Columbia has done a terrific job of showcasing this deranged little item as well as possible.

Sort of a pothead cross between the horror classics Mad Love and The Beast with Five Fingers, the wacko story begins when Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa), a lazy stoner content to spend his days in front of the TV, fails to notice that his parents have been brutally butchered by a serial killer prowling the town. Anton's two tokin' buddies, Mick (Buffy's Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Ratcliff), come by to visit just in time to discover that Anton's hand has been possessed by an evil spirit responsible for all the mayhem, and neither of them makes it back out the front door. However, Anton's pals return as dismembered zombies, which makes about as much sense as anything else in the movie but allows since nice riffs on the old American Werewolf in London dead buddy routine. Meanwhile the object of Anton's affections, Molly (Jessica Alba), asks him to a Halloween dance, and a "Druidic priestess" named Debi (Viveca Fox, a nice bit of bizarre casting) tears across the country to expunge the evil spirit before it opens a gateway to hell. Unable to cope with his murderous extremity, Anton lops off his hand at the wrist, resulting in some Evil Dead 2-inspired schtick at the dance where The Offspring happen to be playing (and doing a pretty good cover of The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated"). Will Anton stop his hand? Will Molly and Anton find true love? And how much blood can be crammed into a major studio R rated film?

Misleadingly promoted as a "hot comedy," Idle Hands works best as an irreverant and very sick horror film laced with black humor. All of the killings, including a couple of cop murders, are surprisingly rough and creepy, while the film's unexpected message seems to be that laziness is bad and pot is good. Green does a great job as usual, Sawa does his best Bruce Campbell impression, and the rest of the cast seems to be having plenty of fun. Even the requisite topless sex scene is handled in a highly unorthodox fashion, with both participants wearing KISS makeup! Only the last two scenes, which seem to have accidentally stumbled in from The Frighteners, really fail to satisfy, but a more unconventional ending would have most likely been out of the question considering how many risks were taken over the preceding 80 minutes. The film also displays a few other minor flaws, notably the umpteenth Seven-inspired credits sequence and that irritating '90s teen movie trait, a bad grunge soundtrack overstuffed with forgettable songs. On the other hand, Graeme Revell's puckish, weird score definitely satisfies and recalls his earlier work on Bride of Chucky, a similar rough and tumble splatter comedy. For even more fun, keep your eyes peeled for some amusing clips from Glen or Glenda? and Dawn of the Dead!

Though not labeled as a collector's edition, Columbia's DVD really pulls out all the stops. As usual, image quality and sound are first rate demo material, hardly surprising given the studio's track record so far. Director Flender (a Roger Corman alum) provides a laid-back feature length commentary with Green and Ratliff, then introduces an alternate, Spawn-inspired swimming pool ending for the film (it's not that great, either). Other extras include a studio puff piece featurette and the "second" theatrical trailer, which redubs the tag line that this film "gives scary movies the backhand" instead of "the finger." Interestingly, both the featurette and trailer feature some alternate lines and footage trimmed from the film itself, including a few glimpses of the alternate ending. If you avoiding this one in theaters like 99.9% of the population but have a strong stomach and a sick sense of humor, give Idle Hands a shot; you might be pleasantly surprised.

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