In a strange turn of events, it turns out I rather dig Oliver Stone’s THE HAND. This is odd because I remember it boring the hell out of me when I watched it as a kid. To be fair to my younger self, 1981 was an incredible year for horror and it’s still easy for me to see why it paled in comparison to the more exciting and innovative films of that year. Additionally, it’s very possible I needed a lot more life experience to appreciate THE HAND’s bitter, misanthropic tone. There’s a whole lot of yelling and domestic squabbling in this flick and I’m sure my younger self was looking for a lot more murder and mayhem.
Now I find, if you can get past the outrageous premise, THE HAND is solid psychological horror and a compelling dive into insanity. Heck, the maddening journey Michael Caine’s hair endures is worth the viewing alone.
Caine stars as Jonathan Lansdale, a writer and illustrator of a CONAN-like comic strip that apparently his entire sense of identity relies on. One day he finds himself on the losing end of a road rage incident and his right hand is severed. Sadly the hand also goes missing and it is presumed to be lost forever (if only he were so lucky). Let me tell you, Jonathan does not adjust to his new predicament well at all. Soon he’s having black and white nightmares of his rotting paw crawling around stealing jewelry and visions of it strangling a homeless man (played by Stone himself). Landsdale landslides into several fun hallucinations including a lobster coming to life, a shower faucet nearly giving him the finger and even a giant hand attacking through a store front window.
Stone makes many an interesting directorial choice even if they don’t all work (I could have easily done without the scene involving a fake cat senselessly jumping through a glass window being shown twice- as it didn’t work the first time). His greatest decision may have been to completely drop the reigns on Caine and allow him to go as bonkers as humanly possible. I could watch Caine go mad forever especially when his sad descent is scored by the great James Horner (WOLFEN, DEADLY BLESSING). Sure, the pacing (literally) crawls at times but there are still so many layers to enjoy. You get a psychological thriller, a family divorce drama (complete with little Christina (Mara Hobel) from MOMMIE DEAREST), a student/teacher romance, a wife and yoga instructor affair, a monster movie, a revenge movie, a cabin in the woods flick AND thanks to an X-Mas tree murder- a Christmas horror movie! Just when you think THE HAND has finally stopped delivering the goods, the incredible Viveca Lindfors shows up! I’m really glad I gave this crazy flick a second chance, young-me didn’t know what he was missing.