Idle Hands [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (29th May 2017).
The Film

“Idle Hands” (1999)

Anton (played by Devon Sawa) is a high school senior but not one that takes school life seriously. He’s a slacker that sees life as time to smoke pot, sit on the couch with friends and watch TV all day. He’s so out of it that it takes a few days to realize that his parents have been murdered with their bodies hidden within the Halloween décor. Asking his loyal pot smoking neighborhood buds Mick (played by Seth Green) and Pnub (played by Elden Henson) for help, they of course are quickly drawn to the music videos on TV than the dead bodies right beside them in Anton’s living room. While trying to figure out what happened, Anton finds that his right hand has a mind of its own - a possessed limb that was out to kill. With a force more powerful than his mind, his hand silences his friends by stabbing a broken beer bottle into Mick’s forehead and by slicing Pnub’s head off with a hacksaw.

Help comes from the most unlikely place: from the undead stoner corpses of Mick and Pnub, up from the dead as they said there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but way too far for them to walk to, so they came back as zombies. With an idea to dismember the hand to stop it from killing again, things get even worse as Anton’s possessed right hand continues to move even without its host. Anton has a lot of explaining to do. Whether to his hot neighbor and classmate Molly (played by Jessica Alba), to his Satanic music listening macho dude neighbor Randy (played by Jack Noseworthy), and the police. To add more, there also happens to be the druidic high priestess Debi (played by Vivica A. Fox) is on the lookout for the possessed hand, willing to kill Anton.

“Idle Hands” is a gory film with gallons of blood from the opening scene, jump scares here and there, but overall it is one to laugh at rather than be shocked by. The pot smoking scenes and drug humor equals to numb the horror even if the audience members are not high while viewing the film. To this it is hard to keep things serious yet it never falls into parody movie territory, as it pays homage to many horror films from the past in its set designs, color palate, and direction. The severed hand on its own is an homage to “Evil Dead 2”, the slacker drug humor is like any “Jay and Silent Bob” film, the dance scene is basically “Carrie”, and the colors used for a majority of the horror scenes are out of any Mario Bava or Dario Argento film. Director Rodman Flender started working for Roger Corman in the early 1990s followed by television direction, but his theatrical directorial features such as “Leprechaun 2” were critically panned or completely ignored. During the late 90s with the resurgence of teen horror in the mainstream with films such as “Scream” (1996), “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (1997), “The Faculty” (1998), and others so studios were trying to cash in on the next horror film and possible franchise. “Idle Hands” fit the bill with its violent horror content while also catering to the self-referential humor and drug comedy genres. Truth is, what fails is that the comedy is lacking and certain plot holes are left wide open.

Certainly it may seem funny how the stoner kids react to the situation, just as drunkards were in “Shaun of the Dead” or “Grabbers”, or the stoners in “Attack the Block”, but those films pull off the humor in a much better fashion while “Idle Hands” for the most part missed the nark in comedic execution. Not to say it was a failure in comedy entirely, as there are some gutbusting funny moments here and there. The characters of Mick and Pnub play well off each other, whether alive or dead and if it were centered around them more, it may have been a better paced film. Instead the story falling under the strength of Anton is a bit weak as his character is not exactly on the likeable side and some of the plot points are far fetched. His sudden relationship with the super-hot classmate and neighbor Molly seems extremely unlikely to happen - only within his wildest dreams, plus with all the deaths revolving around him, it’s amazing how he is able to do so much without further suspicion. Wouldn’t Mick and Pnub’s families realize their sons are missing? Wouldn’t an abandoned police car and two missing officers hint anything, especially since once of their last known tickets was written up with Anton’s name? A spoiler for the end, but considering Anton's miraculous survival, he doesn’t have much to look forward to. With the severed hand committing the series of murders, the finger prints should lead to Anton since it was his physical hand meaning he would be linked to all the crimes, with his backyard being dug up for the remaining bodies. He’s not going to be leading a happy life with Molly as he dreams… But maybe that is reading into the reality too much when the whole thing should be taken much more lightly. That also goes to the far fetched subplot of the Druidian priestess out to kill the cursed hand which was borderline hard to grasp as part of the same film or not.

As for the horror effects, they are quite well done. The combination of CGI and practical effects are very effective, with the severed hand effects being the highlight. The hand crawling on its own and doing the murders are played by Christopher Hart who made a memorable performance with just his right hand in the two “Addams Family” films as Thing. His performance goes one step beyond adding a sinister touch to what seems like an easy performance. There are blood spurts, scalp ripping, eardrum piercing, tasering, and ceiling fan chopping nastiness through the film and for fans wanting gory horror, they will be satisfied with the results there.

The film opened theatrically in the United States on April 30th 1999 in over 1600 theaters. The theatrical campaign posters did little to advertise it as a bloody horror and looking more like a teen comedy along the lines of “Clueless” or “Jawbreaker”. Critics were unkind to it and audiences did not follow. Debuting at 7th place it grossed a disappointing $1.7 million opening weekend, with a total box office gross of a paltry $4 million in its one month run. With a $25 million budget, the film was a flop for Columbia Pictures. For such a flop, it was unprecedented and unexpected that the film got a decent DVD release in August of 1999, with a commentary track and some extras including a making-of and alternate ending. Despite the theatrical failure and critical failure, the film continued to find audiences on the DVD market and on cable TV, continuing as a cult classic. “Idle Hands” is not along the likes of “Scream” or “Clerks” as a standout of 90s film to break the rules or a standout horror film of the time period, but it continues to find fans with its 90s dark humor and nasty effects.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray which can be played back on any Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec, in the original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The high definition transfer seems to be identical to the previously issued US Blu-ray from Image Entertainment and that is a positive thing. The neon lit “Suspiria” influenced scenes, the bright and dark red blood stains, and to top with the rotting and burned hand, colors are well reproduced. There are no instances of damage or errors, the picture is stable, and film grain is visible with no artificial sharpening or noise reduction. A stellar transfer of the film and presented well by Umbrella Entertainment.

The film’s runtime is 92:04.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
The original English audio soundtrack is presented in lossless 5.1. This is a very involving track as a great number of punk bands such as Unwritten Law, Rancid, Blink 182, Sublime, and The Offspring (who make a cameo appearance in the film), plus other genres such as rap and metal represented with 2 Live Crew, Rob Zombie, Static-X, and more fill the soundscape. In addition the Graeme Revell composed soundtrack is lively with its music cues and effects. Dialogue is almost always center based, with dialogue sounding clear and easy to understand with no issues with volume levels.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the film. These are closed caption style, with a white font placed within a black box, with the subtitles appearing beneath the character speaking, rather than in the center. There are a few issues with a word unsubtitled here and there, but overall captions 95% of the dialogue.

Extras

Audio commentary by director Rodman Flender and actors Seth Green and Elden Henson
In this talkative commentary, the director and actors keep things quite casual, discussing both behind the scenes info and background information, while also taking time to make fun of certain aspects of the film MST3K style. Other things discussed are about other audio commentaries that they liked such as the ones for Bill Lusting on “Maniac and the group commentary on “As Good as It Gets”, and also how great the film did by taking in $125 million at the box office… which is obviously an exaggeration. This commentary was previously featured on the original 1999 DVD release.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Deleted Scene (9:19)
The director introduces the alternate final conflict at the swimming pool and why it was replaced with the theatrical ending. The footage is not fully edited or color corrected so it does look pretty tough to watch quality-wise. This deleted scene was previously featured on the original 1999 DVD release.
in 480i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1 and windowboxed 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Making Of" featurette (6:00)
This vintage EPK features interviews with the cast and crew, along with behind the scenes footage and clips from the film. It also includes great shots of the makeup effects of the hand, though overall it is way too short. This featurette was previously featured on the original 1999 DVD release.
in 480i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Storyboard Comparisons (3:05)
Black and white storyboards are presented at the top of the screen with the finished film on the bottom. Two scenes are shown: Pnub’s death and the police officers’ deaths. Sorry for the spoilers but the film is nearly 20 years old now! These comparisons were previously featured on the original 1999 DVD release.
in 480i MPEG-2, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Theatrical Trailer (2:19)
The original trailer from 1999 is presented. The picture is a bit weaker than the feature with a bit of telecine wobble.
in 1080p AVC-MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

Previously the film was released on Blu-ray in the United States by Image Entertainment which included no extras. This Australian Blu-ray by Umbrella Entertainment features all the extras from the 1999 DVD edition, though there are no new extras curated for this release. No additional interviews or retrospective extras.

Packaging

Though the packaging has a “region B” logo on the rear, the disc is in fact a region free disc.

The front cover features new cover art to showcase the gorier aspect of the film while on the reverse sleeve, the original teen-comedy looking original poster art is shown.

Overall

“Idle Hands” was a box office flop, but the horror comedy eventually came back like the undead characters through home video and TV viewings over the years. It’s nowhere near the classic levels of 90s horror or comedy films but gorehounds and stoner film fans will get some satisfaction from the film, flaws and all. Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release features excellent video and audio with all the extras from the DVD edition ported over. Recommended.

The Film: C+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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