Weak grasp

Movie: Idle Hands

Our Rating: 2.00

Don't give Satan all the credit for the devilry wrought by the title appendages in "Idle Hands," a bloody horror-comedy from the same genius who brought us "Leprechaun 2." Place the blame on the shoulders of Rodman Flender, the director of that latter classic, and rookie screenwriters Terri Hughes and Ron Milbauer.

Flender, also an actor, writer, producer and Harvard graduate who went to finishing school at the Roger Corman institute of schlock filmmaking, made his movie the modern-horror way, with predictable results.

The formula: Grab a cast with at least one face familiar from teenybopper television (Seth Green of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"); play the violence for laughs; crank up the gore to levels once reserved for the likes of George A. Romero, referenced here with a clip from "Dawn of the Dead"; throw in a little gratuitous flesh; and cram the soundtrack with wall-to-wall metal and alternative rock.

"Idle Hands," exactly the kind of entertainment a major studio would want to dump into theaters before the beginning of the summer-movie crush, is modestly entertaining for its first half hour or so.

Anton (Devon Sawa) is a high-school slacker whose extracurricular activities seem limited to getting stoned, frying his ears with loud headphones, mindlessly surfing the TV channels and gawking at sexy schoolmate/neighbor Molly (Jessica Alba). Late one Halloween night, Anton's parents (Fred Willard and Connie Ray) are attacked by a mysterious invader.

As we quickly learn, Anton himself is responsible for the gruesome murders, but his good side remains oblivious to his demonic hand and to the carnage visited on several others in the community. "Don't you watch the news?" his pal Pnub (Elden Henson) asks. Anton's response: "I don't like that show."

Before long Anton has offed buddies Pnub and Mick (Green), and has nearly done the same to the suddenly amorous Molly. That's about it, really. The remainder of the movie is devoted to watching the good Anton attempt to stop the madness his possessed hand is wreaking and to save his girl from the same fate as the growing number of victims -- one saw blade through a neck, one broken beer bottle in a forehead, one knitting needle through a policeman's temples, a strangulation, death by fan blade -- you get the picture.

A subplot has Anton's tough-guy neighbor Randy (Jack Noseworthy) teaming up with a Druid priestess (Vivica A. Fox) who has been traveling across the country in a van, trailing a series of ugly events. "There's evil out there, and I've got to kick its ass," she exclaims, exasperated by Southern California freeway traffic.

Flender and his writers, along the way, take cues from other, better horror flicks, borrowing the evildoer from "The Beast With Five Fingers" (later reprised in two movies called "The Hand") and making references to "American Werewolf in London" and "Carrie." He must have learned lots from Corman and from directing television shows like "Dawson's Creek." Too bad originality wasn't part of the curriculum.


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