Awfully Good: Idle Hands

Last Updated on July 30, 2021


Idle Hands (1999)


Director: Timothée Chalamet’s Uncle
Stars: My wife’s teenage dream boyfriend, My teenage dream girlfriend, Seth Green


A touching coming-of-age-story about a teenage boy and his right hand.

You could make a case that IDLE HANDS is more of a Best Movie You Never Saw candidate than an Awfully Good one. I don’t think it’s a bad flick, but I am going to use its 15% Rotten Tomatoes score as an excuse to extol the virtues of Devon Sawa’s physical comedy skills and 1999’s should-be Oscar winner for Best Costume Design.

Jessica Alba looks thrilled with her outfit.

It may sound like a full-length version of the classic “Farewell to Arms” scene from EVIL DEAD II…and it sort of is. IDLE HANDS follows high school slacker Anton (ironically played by the guy who would later star in SLACKERS) who learns the importance of maturity and self-responsibility thanks to an ancient demonic entity that takes control of one of his limbs and begins committing ghastly murders that shock his small town. The movie boasts some gnarly kills as a result—decapitations, brain piercings, electrocutions, and even death-by-high-speed-fan. But nothing more memorable than the scene where the title appendage interrupts two teens having sex in full Kiss makeup and then briefly…um, lends a helping hand… before doing away with them both.

IDLE HANDS needle kill
When your HELLRAISER cosplay goes terribly wrong.

That’s just one example of another of the film’s strength—its darkly comic tone. IDLE HANDS is a great showcase for how to successfully mix horror and comedy together. It manages to finds the humor in scary situations without making fun of the genre or killing the tension in a given scene. And sure a lot of the gags may be lowbrow, stoner humor, but I’d argue none of it is lazy. I mean, I’ll take any movie that takes the time to make a “Mighty Joe Bong” joke.

The script is tongue-in-cheek and flexible enough to realize the inherent sillinessof the concept. It plays things straight when it needs to and goes for the outlandish when necessary. Sometimes both, like when Anton eulogizes his freshly-murdered parents in their backyard (“Mom, Dad, you fed me and kept a roof over my head…until I killed you.”), which is both ridiculous and sort of heartfelt. But mostly IDLE HANDS goes for the laughs. There’s a ton of hilarious one-liners, mostly from Seth Green and Elden Henson, who have magnificent chemistry as the main character’s formerly-alive stoner best friends.

IDLE HANDS knitting

Devon Sawa carries the movie as Anton and fully commits, delivering some truly impressive physicality. He literally throws himself in to the role, dealing with a rogue body part and having to continually fight his own hand, a disembodied hand, and multiple puppets. It’s not an easy gag to continually sell, especially playing it for both laughs and scares.

Supporting-wise, there’s the aforementioned Green and Henson as Mick and Pnub, who I’d say are the most memorable characters in the film—were it not for Jessica Alba as Anton’s love interest. Watching this movie now, Alba’s character is absolutely ridiculous. They constantly give her lines and put her in positions that make it seem like she’s in a horror movie porn parody rather than a real Hollywood film. Hell, she spends the third act in more and more revealing clothing until she’s literally in her underwear for the movie’s climax. (Granted, I was definitely not complaining about this when I first watched IDLE HANDS at 16.)

The film also boasts appearances from recognizable performers like Fred Willard, Vivica A. Fox (whose Druid warrior character is insanely superfluous to the plot), and even Christopher Hart, who played Thing in the ADDAMS FAMILY movies and lends his recognizable hand skills here as well. And since this was released in the mid-2000s and boasts a great alt-rock soundtrack, you also get cameos from The Offspring and Blink 182’s Tom DeLonge.

IDLE HANDS offspring kill
Let’s be honest—we all dreamed of this after the 500th time we had to listen to “Pretty Fly For A White Guy.”

Like any good movie to watch during this spooky season, IDLE HANDS culminates at a high school Halloween dance where all hell breaks loose. The finale involves the lead singer of The Offspring getting scalped, Jessica Alba being chased through the air ducts in various stages of undress, and our hero giving a “Kevin Costner speech” and finally taking responsibility for himself, but still using his beloved marijuana to hot box the evil hand and save the day.

Shout! Factory just released a shiny new Blu Ray of IDLE HANDS, so there’s never been a better time to check out this underseen gem.

That’s the face of a dog keenly aware that every girl in America was jealous of him.

Jessica Alba is the obvious choice here, but honestly, who could forget this scene?

IDLE HANDS car sex

IDLE HANDS scoreBuy the Movie Watch the Movie

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • The hand kills someone
  • Someone smokes weed
  • Someone says Anton screams like a girl
  • Someone grabs, scratches or sniffs their privates
  • Someone is watching a classic horror movie
  • There’s a jump scare

Double shot if:

  • Someone says the name of the movie


Thanks to Bern and Matt C. for suggesting this week's movie!


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.


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