FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Dec 4, 2007

Film Club: The Hand

1981 rules! Of course, you should all know that by now as I've mentioned it time and time again. Yes, that magical year is the one that brought us this month's Film Club pick, Oliver Stone's The Hand. Equal parts psychological thriller an straight-up grisly horror flick, The Hand leaves us all asking but one simple question: Gawd, is there anything 1981 can't do?

I swear to God, there's a Charmin joke in here somewhere but I can't quite get to it.

Michael Caine stars as Jon Lansdale, a comic strip artist going through some tough times with his 'cuckoo for yoga puffs' wife Anne (Andrea Marcovicci). Anne wants to move to New York, Jon wants to stay put, Anne decides she's going to go anyway and take their daughter Lizzie (Mara Hobel) with her as well, yet she still expects Jon to support them. Anne, you see, is a bit of a jerk.

Unfortunately for Jon, she decides to be at her jerkiest while she's driving. Her antics put her on the wrong side of the road at the very wrong time; there's a car accident that's so grimace inducing that I...well, I grimaced and slapped my hand over my mouth. My roommate, however, screamed and made me rewind it three times. Now that's hardcore!

Jon loses his right hand in the accident- his right hand, his drawing hand...his moneymaker. Though he's fitted with a super-sweet robot-looking metal hand, it doesn't give Jon enough control to work a brush properly and he can't continue working on his strip. You may be surprised to find out that this is a bit devastating to Jon. As someone who draws for a living, I could certainly sympathize with his plight. I can't imagine losing my right hand- or rather, I can imagine it and I don't like the results. I tell ya, the only thing preventing me from getting in barroom brawls like every weekend is my fear of breaking my hand and being unable to work. I suppose I could just roundhouse kick everybody, but that's not nearly as much fun as punching someone and sending them flying through those swinging saloon doors. Not that I've ever done it, but it does look cool- though not as cool as when you toss someone and they go sliding down the bar on their belly, shattering beer steins as they go. Then the prostitutes are all like "Oh my!" and they lift their ruffled skirts and scurry away; the piano player in the stripey shirt and the little hat keeps right on playing as if nothing has happened, and the drunk guy at the bar who looks like an old(er)-timey Walter Matthau lifts his drink right as the guy on the bar slides by so he doesn't lose a precious drop of his ripple.

Wait, what was I talking about? Umm...

Oh, yeah- so Jon gets despondent. Everything begins to go really really wrong for him- he loses his comic strip, his wife, his friend, his townie girlfriend...and then he totally loses them all permanently when his severed hand appears and makes with the squeeze-squeeze. Gee, everyone who makes Jon angry ends up on the receiving end of a little five-finger justice. What in the world is going on? Is Jon's hand really scuttling about, doing his dirty work? Or has Jon himself gone mad and he's projecting? Has Jon gone mad because he's slowly morphing into Gene Wilder, or is Jon slowly morphing into Gene Wilder because he's gone mad?

There's a good chance that The Hand would be an absolutely ludicrous film were it not for Michael Caine and Oliver Stone. However, Caine puts in a great performance- one not nearly as odd and over-the-top as the one in, say, The Swarm- and Stone approaches the material as a character study of a man pushed to the brink. He doesn't skimp on the horror, though, and every time the eeeeevil hand gets busy, it's extremely violent and bloody...and not as laughable as you might expect.

Moment to look for: Stone himself shows up in an alleyway, and gives Jon the time-honored Hobo's One-Stump Salute.

The Hand isn't what I expected- what I expected was kooky, silly fun. It is kooky, silly fun, I suppose, but in a very serious way. I couldn't help but imagine what a remake of this film would be like; I doubt there would be as much time spent with the characters, building an actual story. Here, the "action", so to speak, is a long-time coming. I think in an updated version the hand would get down to business much quicker. There'd also be a scene with some guy and some girl making out...she isn't ready to go "all the way" and so the dude would take off in a huff. After she falls asleep, the hand would crawl under her shirt and she'd be all "Jeff, I told you I didn't want to. Jeff, stop it. Jeff...?" and then she'd see the severed hand grabbing her boob and she'd be like "Ahhh!" and then the hand would kill her.

What? I'm not a perv- you know that would happen.

Give it up for The Film Club Coolies! Post 'em if you got 'em, and tell me what you think!

$7 Popcorn
Gatochy's Blog
Bloody Mary's Movie Revue
Evil on Two Legs
Askewed Views


Bloody Mary said...

Oh, I finally got my review semi-done in time, I'm so excited!

Oh, but that link that says it goes to MY page links to YOUR page right now.

My review is here...

Thanks for another great pick, Stacie!

Stacie Ponder said...

Dammit, you exposed my eeeeevil plan to only link back to myself, so people get trapped in some sort of Final Girl-flavored Mobius Strip!

Wait, I mean...uh, I fixed it.

Corey said...
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Corey said...
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Corey said...

here's our handiwork (zing!)

evilontwolegs review of The Hand

Unknown said...

ending really left me wondering what would have happened if Gene Wilder had played the John Lansdale role.

You're right though, in a remake they'd never spend so much time on the character development. Some VP would say that it's kind of boring and they'd go with the make out scene, which would be a shame since the entire build up is handled so well here. It simmers for a while before it finally gets with the real killin. And, I'm okay with that. I think it's the build up that really seperates The Hand from some cheesy SciFi Original (that I probably also would have enjoyed...)

Goose said...

The Hand, well, what to No wait that is not strong enough. Dull to the Nth degree. Yeah, thats it. Not really scary, or creepy. Just kinda sad.
I remember when I was a kid seeing this for the first time, I was kinda scared. Now, seeing it again, years later, I was disappointed. I thought I would still like it, like I still like April Fools Day, but I was wrong.

Bloody Mary said...

Ha! The time-honored Hobos' One-Stump Salute!

Anonymous said...

Oh, that totally would happen. But you know, a hand gotta get him some love.

You forgot about breaking the mirror behind the bar and the barkeep firing his double-barreled sawed-off into the ceiling to restore order.

And, folks, Stacie's being modest. I've seen her in a bar fight. The giant boxing glove on her drawing hand looks ridiculous, but she more than compensates with it by being able to throw pen nibs like shuriken.

And, hey, look over there, Spawn of Zoltan!!! I'd missed that until now!

M said...
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M said...

Don't you think a golden opportunity was wasted when there was no fight between Jon's lost hand and his new prosthetic one -- like "He's mine now, bitch, leave him alone!" the two mano a mano, pinching and punching each other? Like robocop meets zombie.

spazmo said...

You know, most people think "mano a mano" means "man-on-man".

Mariana wins the prize for using hand-to-hand both properly and utterly literally!

I love the screencap showing post-accident Michael Caine sitting alone, all mopey and Gene Wilderesque. It looks like he's had a few too many whiskeys at the old "Stacie Ponder Saloon".

Anonymous said...

Great review! Love the screencaps of the accident-- I'm one of the sickos who rewound it, like, six times.
So, I was kind of surprised by how seriously the film took itself. I actually really liked it, and pretty much anything featuring a nutso Michael Caine is ok in my book.
On a side note, is it me or did this movie contain the most odious array of secondary characters ever? The bitchy wife? The unstable psychology teacher? The barely literate, mentally challenged marginally attractive Michael-you-can-do-better-than-her townie Stella? Though as an artist, I did enjoy her impossibly crappy sketchbook.
Weird, good little flick. Thanks for digging this one up!

kindertrauma said...

in the spirit of lame week I must confess although the dog did not eat my homework, the VCR did eat my HAND tape! that's what I get for not shelling out the bucks for the DVD. sorry I missed the fun or at least Oliver Stone as a hobo.

Anonymous said...

Well, Idle Hand wasn't quite a remake, but it did do the disembodied-hand-boob-grab.

FatalPierce said...

Better never than late, but I'm always one to disappoint so here is my link

I like to think of it as not so much a review this time but more of an insane caffeine deprived list of thoughts of the moment...In any event I'm still blaming the crying Dawson for everything.

And Now that Mariana brings it up I may have to dock some points from "The Hand" for not having any hand on fake hand violence.

Stacie Ponder said...

Pierce, I say blame Crying Dawson as much as you possibly can. He's a jerk.

Mariana, that's a great call! I'd like to see the hands just punching each other non-stop.
Kate, I've never seen Idle Hands, but I'm happy to know I've got my finger on Hollywood's pulse! :D

Bonnie, I absolutely LOATHED Anne. I thought she was a total twat. I thought Stella was sort of cute in a Mary-Stuart Masterson kind of way...and it's such a sad little relationship for the both of them. But oh, that sketchbook!

No worries, Kinder...catch us on the next go-round. Punch your VCR for me, though!

Anonymous said...

Good to see you hated Anne as well. Stella pysically reminded me a little of a mentally challenged PJ Soles. Cute in a weird, sad way. And oh... the sketchbook, aka the greatest thing ever. EVER.

Mr. Peel aka Peter Avellino said...

This is very, very late, I know. But I still thought I'd toss it in there.