The “crawling hand/possessed body parts” sub-genre is one that frightened me badly early in life, as most horror movies tended to do back then. It’s a toss up, as far as my memory is concerned, which came first, The Crawling Hand (1963) or Doctor Terror’s House Of Horrors (1965)? I tend to think the latter movie, but that may only be because the crawling hand segment in that anthology was the most frighteningly memorable. The fear on that one didn’t even begin with a viewing of the movie. Being a little kid, commercials and trailers for horror movies tended to have a jolting effect on me and I remember seeing a commercial for Doctor Terror’s House Of Horrors, and that disembodied hand threatening Christopher Lee left it’s mental mark early on.
All I can remember of The Crawling Hand was that it was a black and white movie and had something do with an astronaut getting his hand cut off and it coming back to earth to kill people at random. I still have fearful snippets of that black and white hand buried in my mind, but that’s all. I can remember nothing of any other scene.
The best and most effective movie length version I have ever seen about a rampaging appendage, and one I can recall with almost perfect to near perfect detail, is Oliver Stone’s The Hand (1981). It’s that movie where Michael Caine loses his hand in a car accident and it follows him around killing people that anger him. Best performance I think Caine ever did. And a movie where it asks you is it really a disembodied appendage killing people or is it Caine himself who may have simply gone psychotic?
I would even add Eric Red’s Body Parts (1991) onto that list even though there isn’t any kind of appendage that gets separated and goes all homicidal. It’s mostly about the nature of evil and whether evil can be retained in a body part and, if so, can that retained evil influence a person that body part gets grafted onto? In the same way Caine lost his hand star, Jeff Fahey, loses an entire arm in a violent car accident and gets a lemon grafted onto him. The arm of a convicted murderer is used and it causes all kinds of problems for Fahey.
Third best feature length film in this sub-genre is Idle Hands.
It’s 1999 and Bolan, California is having a bit of a serial killer problem, but lazy shit Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa) couldn’t care less. Nothing manages to get in the way of his three favorite hobbies: getting high, watching TV and listening to music. He doesn’t get shocked out of his Sloth until he discovers the dead bodies of his parents in his own house after telling his two best friends, Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson) earlier that he hasn’t seen them in days.
The last time we the viewer saw them was in the opening of the movie when his father, played by Fred Willard, went downstairs to check out that “mysterious sound.” By the sound of it he met Death that night and when Mom tries to call the cops she meets a gruesome death after being pulled under the bed.
Actually it’s a later visit by Mick and Pnub that reveals Anton is actually the killer. Thing is he doesn’t remember it because he’s got a raging case of Alien Hand Syndrome (a real neurological disorder that makes a person’s hand seem like it has a mind of it’s own). Anton’s “Alien Hand” forces him to kill his two friends, but they don’t stay dead. After burying them in the backyard they inexplicably return, looking as messed as how they died.
In the meantime, Debi LeCure (Vivica A. Fox), a druid priestess, knows what’s really going on for she’s been tracking it across the country for some time. An evil that tends to be attracted to the laziest shit it can find has been possessing hands and forcing the recipients to kill at random. The only cure for this, apparently, is death by ritualistic knife. Lucky for Anton then at the roughly the hour mark he decides to take matters into his own hands, whoops, sorry, I mean, hand, and separate the fuckin’ thing from his body via meat cleaver.
Things just go from bad to worse when the now disembodied hand continues to crawl around and kill, laying mad waste to anyone it can get it’s hand on at the Halloween party going on in the gym of their local school.
Choosing Devon Sawa for this role was a stroke of genius; he’s brilliant at playing the slapstick horror of being made to do things against his will by his possessed hand. He reminded me of the brilliance of Bruce Campbell’s possessed hand acting in Evil Dead II (1987).
Before-they-were-famous, Jessica Alba, shows up as Molly, the hot classmate Anton has got the dirty hots for. He even manages to score some serious make-out time with her as he tries to keep his murderous paw at bay.
There is one death scene in the movie that took me completely by surprise and probably took every viewer by surprise because you just don’t see it coming. Hint—it takes place during the Halloween dance and is basically the impetus for all the ensuing chaos.
Idle Hands finally attains blu-ray status courtesy of Image Entertainment and I say it is a winner. The 1080p high definition anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is quite good looking. I didn’t have any problem with the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio either. The only subtitles present on the disc are in English.
For those who love extra features I want you to brace yourself for some bad news. None of the extras from the 1999 DVD were ported over. Not even the trailer. So I recommend getting the blu-ray for the transfer, but keep the DVD for the extras.