It’s the little things in life that I enjoy. A good Chinese buffet. A new Killswitch Engage song on the radio. An OOP Blu-ray found in the wild during a V-Stock B2GO free sale! That’s what happened on a warm Saturday afternoon in Chesterfield, MO. I found the long desired, mightily searched for, guilty pleasure, 1988’s 976-Evil.
I remember my 9-year-old self reading the Fangoria/Gorezone magazines, and searching my local video stores for what was at the time, the highlight of my horror loving year. You see, Freddy Krueger HIMSELF was directing one of my favorite actors of the 80s, Evil Ed! That’s Stephen Geoffreys for all y’all non-Fright Night loving peeps. It was a bittersweet union though, as Evil Ed declined appearing in Fright Night 2, just so he could act in this movie. Was it a good idea? Read on my fellow horror-minded friends.
Evil Ed, or “Hoax” as he’s named here, is a religiously repressed social outcast (not unlike the nerds he portrayed in EVERY MOVIE IN THE 1980’s). He also thinks his cousin Spike (28 in real life playing a high schooler) is the coolest guy around and they share a bond that works out well for each of them. 80’s babe Lezlie Deane (from Freddy’s Dead fame) plays Spike’s girlfriend, rounding out the “high school” kids. And finally, Sandy Dennis, in a memorable role, plays Hoax’s uber-religious mother, the only character with a southern accent, and it is her over the top acting that holds the movie together.
Anyway, for those born after the advent of cell phones, back in the dark ages of communication, we had what was called 976 numbers. These 976 phone numbers had TV ads that ran in the middle of the night, for when you slept on the couch with the TV on, you would pleasantly wake up at 3 in the morning and see scantily clad babes begging you to call a 976 number for $4.99 the first minute, 99 cents for each one after. These phone calls, which no doubtedly made your mother blush, allowed you to talk dirty to some woman in middle America who had a sexy voice but probably was not the attractive woman you pictured. Not only for solo spank purposes, they also had horoscope lines, psychic lines, all kinds of phone lines designed to get your money AND keep you coming back for more.
For purposes of this film, it’s a kind of satanic wish granting horoscope phone line that Hoax gets addicted to and it somehow turns him into some kind of demon who goes on a revenge seeking rampage against those who wronged him. It plays out like a bad late 80s episode of The Hitchhiker or Freddy’s Nightmares though, as it feels a little flimsy at 92 minutes.
It’s acted competently from all involved, the makeup effects are great, and the setting of the house once it becomes demon-ified by Hoax is crazy beautiful, but it’s the story and its rather nonsensical aspects that are what ultimately bring it down. Englund really goes all out on the design of the house at the end, but the film is padded by subplots involving gambling woes, a cop investigating a religious event where fish fell from the sky, and the search for where the phone calls are coming from. I just wish it were a 30–45 minute episode of a TV show.
This was the last mainstream film for Geoffreys as he spent the 90s appearing in gay pornographic films as Sam Ritter. An odd career move, one that left a gaping hole in the “lovable nerd character” roles in Hollywood films not really filled until Steve Carell, Jonah Hill, and McLovin’ came along. It also marked the last film that Robert Englund would direct until 2008’s Killer Pad. I kind of wanna see that one now, but being that it’s a horror-comedy, and the synopsis on Wikipedia sounds – uh- different, I will just pretend it doesn’t exist and 976-Evil is the only film he directed. Cuz it’s a fun, nostalgic, nasty little revenge, albeit bloated, 80s-era flick.
7.5/10 Stab Wounds