Our next debuting contributor for this year’s Halloween Horrors series is Danielle Zepeda. Coming to us from California, Danielle is a long-time horror fan with an obsession for “true crime” and vintage Halloween decorations. I do not know for certain whether she has any vintage Halloween decorations based on true crimes, but now that I’ve put the idea into my own head, I kinda hope she does. Do they make John Wayne Gacy string lights or blow molds of H.H. Holmes?

For her debut contribution to our little annual series celebrating horror fandom, Danielle claimed 1999’s Idle Hands. A horror comedy with a “stoner comedy” slant, the film is undeniably fun and lighthearted, in spite of its inclination towards death and gore.

However, the Halloween Horrors series always tends to be full of surprises, and the following piece is no exception. What follows is a heartfelt and loving dedication to someone who helped her become not just the horror fan that she is today, but the PERSON that she is today. I have no shame admitting that her words kicked me right in the “feels”, making me reflect on the 2 little future horror fans growing up under my own roof.

The year is 1999, and I am a twelve-year old preteen obsessed with horror, punk rock, and all sorts of hobbies that don’t help anyone make friends. MTV is on heavy rotation in my room and the trailer for Idle Hands starts playing. At first, I was probably starry-eyed over Devon Sawa; then, the music in the background makes me stand at attention. It’s The Offspring. Not only is their music featured, but they’re in the movie! Thus, I was determined to convince my Dad (the “cool” parent) to take me to see my first R rated movie. After some cajoling and convincing my Mom, he relented, and I was riding high with victory.

For those not familiar with this cult classic, it centers on seventeen year old Anton Tobias (played by Sawa), who is your typical 90s slacker. He gets high, watches too much TV, has two deadbeat best friends, and is in love with Molly, the punk rock girl across the street (Jessica Alba). Anton wakes up on Halloween after a night of getting stoned and watching MTV (cue “Dragula” by Rob Zombie) to his parents brutally murdered and turned into Halloween decor. Before this fateful night, we learn that a string of murders has been plaguing the town, and all signs point to Anton. Once out of his cloud of smoke, Anton realizes his right hand has been possessed. It proceeds to kill his best friends, Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson), with a bottle to the head and saw blade to the throat. Chaos ensues and the trio discovers that the hand is out for more than a killing spree. Anton and his undead friends must find a way to stop the chaos before it gets its claws on Molly or her soul is Hell-bound!

It’s finally movie day, and I am considerably excited. We arrive at the theater and part of me is hoping it turns out to be more funny than scary, as I was still a big chicken when it came to the spooky side of life. Knowing this, I had to make sure I kept a stiff upper lip and didn’t embarrass myself amongst the obvious “cool kids” attending the show with us. I was arguably the youngest person in a crowd full of what I imagined were stoners, horror fans, and the occasional solo adult. Making it to and through this movie would put a notch in my belt of accomplishments, and I was ready! The lights go out, the movie starts, and my first R rated experience is about to begin. It will be the first of many and a tradition that my Dad and I have kept up as I reach my 30s.

Movies have always been our thing. Whether we were seeing Disney movies on opening weekend, or the remastered Star Wars at the Coronet in San Francisco, we have shared countless hours of screen time together. My affection for horror is also thanks to him and my appreciation for the silly and the gory is a gift he most certainly passed down. Growing up, our house was littered with toys like the Hellraiser puzzle box and the puppets from Puppet Master, so in hindsight this R-rated bonding experience couldn’t have been captured by a more perfect movie.

While Idle Hands may not be considered a horror classic, it holds a place near and dear to my heart. It makes me think back to a time in my life when my biggest worry was making sure we had tickets to the next potential cinematic classic or a great concert. I had yet to begin thinking about the looming shadow of high school and finding a way to fit in. Instead, I was thinking about how awesome it felt seeing a movie I wasn’t “supposed” to see and hearing songs that I loved on the big screen.

Idle Hands has become an October staple and it doesn’t feel like the season without at least one watch. Movies like this remind us that horror doesn’t have to win Oscars or be perfect to be good, but that it can be about a directionless teenager with a bloodthirsty hand that reminds us sometimes you need to lose your head (Rest In Peace, Pnub) or your hand to figure out who you’re meant to be.