The Hand (1981)

“You never know what you can do, the unconscious is capable of anything.”  So says, one of the characters in The Hand. Unfortunately, The Hand is made with a very conscious mind.

Oliver Stone has always been a filmmaker with an agenda. In The Hand, one of Stone’s earliest features, that agenda is to create a Brood like horror film.

Michael Caine stars as John Lansdale, a well known comic artist. Like Mandor – the warrior hero Lansdale created – Lansdale himself has little care for human psychology or unconscious impulses. That is, until Lansdale loses his hand in an auto accident. With his career cut short, his marriage on the rocks, and his hand missing Lansdale spirals downward into a lonely see of bitterness. All while, those who anger him suffer brutal beatings. Is John Lansdale behind these attacks or has his errant hand returned to do his subconscious bidding?

The answer is obvious. Oliver Stone does little to hide the mystery behind each act of aggression. At the same time, he does even less to heighten the horror of this story, seemingly plucked straight from an E.C. Comic. Caine’s efforts breathe some excitement and tension into a rather mundane tale of horror. Where as, Stone’s interest lies not in the disembodied had or the murders it commits, but in Lansdale’s emasculation. With his wife leaving him for her new age yoga instructor and his comic book about to taken over by a brash, young artist (wonderfully played by Charles Fleischer) Lansdale’s world is crumbling around him. Retreating to the north woods of California and a small teaching gig at a small college Lansdale quickly falls in with a young co-ed. She’s a buxom blond, the kind who brings beer to her instructor’s house and quickly pops her top minutes after walking in the door. We all know this sort of girl, right?

Stone apparently knows this sort of girl. He also knows something about the homeless and this is why he casts himself in the role of a bum. To make matters worse, he lingers on his cameo for an embarrassingly long time. Thankfully, he becomes victim to ‘The Hand’. Sadly, the film plods onward attempting to explore the subconscious mind and the horrors that it can bring to life while casually positioning new age philosophy and psychology in a negative light.

Though, those two fields are not the only aspects of culture looked down upon by Lansdale. The college Lansdale retreats to is full of dullards and dummies. The faculty appear to be has-beens or never-weres. Everyone Lansdale encounters appears beneath him, from the reckless driver he calls a ‘silly cow’ to his own wife. This growing bitterness peaks when the affections of his student wander and his wife comes to break up their marriage.  Finally, Lansdale’s anger rises and the film reaches an expected climax.

Not before a nice, but brief cameo from Tracey Walter.

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