Idle Hands

USA/Germany 1999

Reviewed by Kim Newman


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Bolan, California., a few days before Halloween. The parents of slacker teenager Anton are murdered by a mysterious force, but Anton doesn't notice. He continues to hang out with his dope-smoking friends Mick and Pnub, and fantasise about Molly, the cool girl who lives across the street. Meanwhile, Druid priest Debi is tracking an evil force which takes possession of the lazy and turns them into serial killers.

Anton finds his parents' corpses and calls Mick and Pnub over, only to have his hand - which is possessed - murder them. While Anton tries to get Molly to help, the hand makes advances to her that Anton follows through on. Mick and Pnub come back to life as zombies and suggest Anton consults with heavy-metal kid Randy on the subject of Satanic powers. Anton hacks off his possessed hand but it continues to make mischief. Debi hooks up with Randy, who leads her to Anton. They track the hand to the school dance, where more teenagers are killed but Anton saves Molly. Later, Mick and Pnub return from Heaven as angels.


This likeable, if minor, slacker horror comedy is a reworking of the intermittently popular crawling-hand theme, exemplified classically by The Beast with Five Fingers (1946), although the splatter-comic elements here also seem inspired by a subplot from Evil Dead II in which Bruce Campbell battled with his possessed, amputated hand, a plight closely resembling that of Idle Hands' luckless Anton.

It's an infalliby funny gambit, and Devon Sawa's writhing fingers create a real separate character. There's an undeveloped suggestion that the evil hand is acting out Anton's desires, as when it gropes Molly, thus landing the timid slacker the girlfriend he would otherwise never have got round to approaching. The film's nugget of irony - based on the proverb "Idle hands are the Devil's playground" - is unforced, but also rather thrown away.

Roger Corman-stable veteran Rodman Flender (director of Leprechaun 2) worked previously in television (Tales from the Crypt, Dark Skies). He marshals sick slapstick very well, using a Dario Argento-inspired colour palette still unusual in American horror movies. The amiably blank Devon Sawa, credible as a clod who uses a backscratcher to scoop a remote control when it's out of reach, performs impressive contortions before the evil hand is hacked off his wrist, pulling off the hard trick of approaching Bruce Campbell's skill at battling an apparently rebel body part. Once chopped off and microwaved, the hand is 'played' by Christopher Hart, who handled Thing in the Addams Family films. Hart matches Sawa's moves and creates a distinctively different crawling hand from his earlier character: Thing was perky and inquisitive, this hand is sneaky and cruel. Among many horrid japes, the funniest and crassest moment comes during the obligatory teenage backseat make-out scene, as a girl realises her breasts are being fondled by three hands.

As is the fashion with teenage horror films at the turn of this century, Idle Hands is more of an ensemble piece than a solo venture. This diffuses its potential for real scariness but also means potential dead spots are filled by scene-stealing supporting players. While Jessica Alba is appealing, most of the work is done by double acts, such as Vivica A. Fox and Jack Noseworthy as, respectively, the Amazonian Druid priestess and the bewildered heavy-metal kid, and especially the vastly underrated Seth Green and Elden Henson as Mick and Pnub, who return from the dead because "Some voice said, 'Walk into the light,' but it was, like, really far, so we said 'Fuck it.'" Raised from the dead, the teens pull a few Re-Animator routines: Pnub has to carry around his severed head or jam it back onto his stumbling body with a fork, but the nicest joke is that these zombies would rather lie on the sofa watching MTV eating cheesy snacks than consume human flesh.


Rodman Flender
Suzanne Todd
Jennifer Todd
Andrew Licht
Jeffrey A. Mueller
Terri Hughes
Ron Milbauer
Director of Photography
Christopher Baffa
Stephen E. Rivkin
Production Designer
Greg Melton
Graeme Revell
©Global Entertainment Productions GmbH & Co. Medien KG
Production Companies
Colubia Pictures presents a Licht/Mueller Film Corporation/Team Todd production
Executive Producer
Jeffrey Sudzin
Production Co-ordinator
Pearl A. Lucero
Unit Production Managers
Roger Pugliese
Jeffrey Sudzin
Location Manager
George Agnew
Assistant Directors
Christian P. Della Penna
Deanna Stadler
Maria Battle Campbell
Sharon Swab
Script Supervisor
Suzanne Gundlach
John Papsidera
Wendy O'Brien
Group Supervisor:
Burt Sharp
Camera Operator
Dan Ayers
Visual Effects
VCE, Inc
Special Effects
Lou Carlucci
Additional Editing
Christopher S. Capp
Art Director
Roland G. Rosenkranz
Set Designer
Scott Herbertson
Set Decorator
Evette Frances Knight
Storyboard Artist
Darrin Denlinger
Wardrobe Supervisor
Julia Caston
Christina Mongini
Susi Campos
Brenda Ware
Make-up Supervisor
Scott Eddo
Prosthetic Make-up
Barry R. Koper
Special Effects Make-up Design/Creation
Cannom Creations
Hair Supervisor
Janice Alexander
Audrey Anzures
Main Titles Design
The Attik
Cinema Research Corporation
Tim Simonec
Music Supervisor
John Houlihan
Music Editor
Ashley Revell
"Peppyrock" by BTK; "Bloodclot" by Rancid; "Shout at the Devil" by Motley Crue; "Santeria" by Sublime; "Core (In Time)", "Glow in the
Dark" by Davíd Garza; "I Am a Pig" by Two; "Pop That Coochie" by 2 Live Crew; "Dragula" by Rob Zombie; "Rude Boy Rock" by Lionrock; "Second Solution" by The Living End; "Mindtrip" by Zebrahead; "New York Groove" by Ace Frehley; "Beheaded" by The Offspring; "Cailin" by Unwritten Law; "Push It" by Static X; "How Do You Feel" by Vanessa Daou; "I Wanna Be Sedated"
Production Mixer
Joseph Geisinger
Re-recording Mixers
Jeffrey J. Haboush
Greg Orloff
Bill W. Benton
Supervising Sound Editor
Michael O'Farrell
Sound Editors
Mark A. Lanza
Simon Coke
Alison Fisher
Bruce Nyznik
D. Chris Smith
Jim Matheny
ADR Supervisor
Michael Haight
Jonathan Klein
Gary Hecker
Michael Broomberg
Richard Duarte
Andy Kopetzky
Stunt Co-ordinator
Charles Picerni Jr
Film Extracts
Dawn of the Dead (1979)
Glen or Glenda (1955)
Devon Sawa
Seth Green
Elden Henson
Jessica Alba
Steve Van Wormer
Fred Willard
Jack Noseworthy
Vivica A. Fox
Christopher Hart
the hand
Katie Wright
Sean Whalen
Nick Sadler
Connie Ray
Kelly Monaco
Timothy Stack
Principal Tidwell
Joey Slotnick
Burger Jungle manager
Tom DeLonge
drive thru jockey
Sabrina Lu
news reporter
Kyle Gass
Burger Jungle guy
Mindy Sterling
lady bowler
Donna Scott
Randy Oglesby
Sheriff Buchanan
Molly Maslin
Carl Gabriel Yorke
Dexter Holland
band lead singer
The Offspring
the band
Columbia Tristar Films (UK)
8,281 feet
92 minutes 1 second
Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS
Colour by
Prints by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011