976-EVIL (1988) reviews and Blu-ray news

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[Total: 29   Average: 2.2/5]

‘Now, horror has a new number’

976-EVIL is a 1988 American horror feature film about a nerdy young man who calls the titular phone line and turns into a demonic killer. The title refers to the 976 telephone exchange, a now mostly defunct premium-rate telephone number system that was popular in the late 1980s.

Directed by actor Robert Englund (he also directed Killer Pad) from a screenplay co-written by Rhet Topham and Brian Helgeland (Trick or Treat), the movie stars Stephen Geoffreys (Moon 44; The Chair; Fright Night), Patrick O’Bryan, Jim Metzler and Sandy Dennis (Parents; God Told Me To). Kevin Yeager (Child’s Play) provided the film’s special makeup effects.

A sequel directed by Jim Wynorski, 976-EVIL II, was released direct-to-video in 1991.

New Blu-ray release:

In the UK, Eureka Entertainment is releasing 976-EVIL on Blu-ray on 19th October 2020.

Limited Edition O-Card slipcase [First Print Run of 2000 copies only]
1080p presentation on Blu-ray
DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 audio options
English subtitles (SDH)
Audio commentary with director Robert Englund and set decorator Nancy Booth Englund
976-EVIL: home video version [105 mins, SD]: An extended version of the film from its original home video release on VHS
New interview with producer Lisa M. Hansen
New interview with special make-up effects artist Howard Berger (The Walking Dead)
New interview with special effects technician Kevin Yagher (Nightmare on Elm Street)
Limited Edition Collector’s Booklet [2000 copies only] featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann

Review:

Ewwwwww!  This movie reeks of stale cigarettes and Axe body spray!

976-EVIL tells the story of two teenagers named Spike (Patrick O’Bryan) and Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys). You know what?  Whether your parents decide to name you Spike or to name your Hoax, your life is pretty much fucked up from the minute either name is entered on your birth certificate.

Anyway, Spike and Hoax are cousins.  Spike is the dangerous bad boy who rides a motorcycle and wears a leather jacket. Hoax is the really nerdy kid who worships Spike and who lives with his ultra-religious mother (Sandy Dennis). Hoax can’t wait until the day he and Spike ride across the country on their motorcycles.  Spike is just busy trying to get laid and looking forward to heading out on his own.

Anyway, Hoax eventually gets tired of being picked on all the time so he decides to call the phone number mentioned in the film’s title.  Hoax discovers that he has a direct line to Hell and the voice on the other end has some definite ideas for what Hoax could do to even the score.  For instance, Hoax could cause spiders to attack Spike’s girlfriend.  And, after that, Hoax could transform into a monster and attack the local bullies at their poker game.

“That’s a dead man’s hand!” Hoax announces, while literally holding up a dead man’s hand. That’s right!  Turning evil means becoming a master of puns!

Uh-oh!  It looks like Hoax has been possessed by evil! Even worse, the phone bill is huge! Those calls to the Devil aren’t cheap, you know! Can Spike defeat his cousin or will evil rule the day?

Now, I will say this for 976-EVIL: as annoying as Stephen Geoffreys is when he’s playing nerdy Hoax, he actually is a bit frightening as evil Hoax. For that matter, Patrick O’Bryan probably does about as good a job as you can do while playing a character named Spike.

But otherwise, 976-EVIL is nearly unwatchable. I mean that literally. The entire film appears to be covered by a layer of grime. Between the unappealing visuals, the poor dialogue, and the lack of appealing characters, there’s really not much in 976-EVIL to hold our attention. It might help if we felt bad for Hoax but, even before he calls the phone number, he’s such a weirdo perv that you just kind of want him to go away.

976-EVIL was the directorial debut of Robert Englund. I kinda hate to be so negative about the film because Robert Englund is such a good actor and he always comes across as being such a nice guy. If you haven’t already, be sure to get a copy of his autobiography, Hollywood Monster.  Englund tells a lot of good stories and is admirably positive about being a horror icon. Unfortunately, though Robert Englund’s a great guy, 976-EVIL just doesn’t work.

Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens

 

Other reviews:

“There are some slow scenes, and Englund overextends himself in some of the special effects scenes. However, the young cast is up to the task, and Sandy Dennis is a scream. If you have read my reviews before, you know how much I hate “funny” horror villains, but here the film is an over-the-top comedy, so the humor works.” Charles T. Tatum Jr. Reviews Archive

“Starting off a bit unsure of itself, 976-EVIL eventually builds into a pretty enjoyable horror film that rises above the small budget and has a bit of fun with the central concept. There aren’t any huge set-pieces that will linger in the memory but there is a nice growing atmosphere of unease and danger as Hoax becomes more enamoured of the telephone service (think of young Arnie in Christine and you get the idea).” For It Is Man’s Number

“Very little blood, split-second topless scene that wasn’t even worth taking a screencap of, tons of awesome horror posters, interesting graffiti, dingy-looking sets, 80’s clothes, slow pace, unsatisfying ending. 976-EVIL is just cheesy enough to be mildly interesting, but slow enough to be boring as f*ck!” Happyotter

” …the movie generally looks decent (outside of the effects). The production design and cinematography are both on point for this kind of flick, but they aren’t nearly enough to carry it when all is said and done. Without startling effects, well-written jokes/scares, or a stand-out performance, good shooting and design isn’t enough to pull the movie through.” Misan[trope]y

“Englund perhaps lets his cast have too much free reign, as no one can quite get dialed in on the same wavelength, so 976-EVIL is constantly straddling the lines of intentional camp. Because this uniformly fine cast is stuck in a messy, atonal mish-mash, 976-EVIL is one of those 80s curiosities that’s more entertaining and fun than it is genuinely good.” Oh, the Horror!

“The film’s rampant quirkiness, which is never more evident than in Sandy Dennis’ obnoxiously over-the-top turn as Hoax’s religious aunt, proves instrumental in ultimately cementing 976-EVIL‘s place as a hopelessly obnoxious piece of work, with the overblown third act paving the way for an anticlimactic finish that is, admittedly, right in line with everything leading up to it.” Reel Film Reviews

“The script has a lot of in-jokes, which keeps the proceedings on an amusing level, but it takes too long for the actual plot to get going.  The nerd-on-revenge theme has been done a million times before and ultimately makes this film come off as clichéd and derivative. Having Hoax’s looks change into resembling a demon backfires as it reminded me too much of the Freddy Kreuger character…” Scopophilia

“This is a competently directed and watchable time that manages to be enjoyably campy at times and although there’s only a so-so finish and when Geoffreys becomes possessed he becomes too much of a wisecracking killer that feels very similar to Englund’s Freddy character it’s still not that bad…” The Video Graveyard

“Like all other aspects of the film, the pacing in 976-Evil is very poor. It builds up to a disappointing third act that is capped off by an anticlimactic finale that makes the viewer question why he or she just wasted 92 minutes of their life watching an idiotic film with paper-thin characters and no justification for even existing.” Wicked Horror

 

Previous Blu-ray release:

In the USA, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released 976-EVIL on a Blu-ray + Digital combo on October 3, 2017. The disc includes the theatrical and home video versions of the film.

Cast and characters:

Stephen Geoffreys … Hoax
Patrick O’Bryan … Spike
Sandy Dennis … Aunt Lucy
Jim Metzler … Marty
María Rubell … Angela
Lezlie Deane … Suzie
J.J. Cohen … Marcus
Paul Willson … Mr Michaels
Greg Collins … Mr Selby
Darren E. Burrows … Jeff
Joanna Keyes … Suzie’s Mother
Gunther Jenson … Airhead
J.J. Johnston … Virgil
John Currie Slade … John Doe
Demetre Phillips … Sergeant Bell

Filming locations:

Los Angeles, California

Technical details:

92 minutes | 105 minutes (extended VHS version)
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Ultra Stereo

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