Director: Robert Englund
Starring: Stephen Geoffreys, Jim Metzler, Maria Rubell, Pat O’Bryan, Sandy Dennis and Robert Picado
Robert Englund is most well known for playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. He has also directed 2 films, the first one being 976-Evil way back in 1988. The story is about cousins, Spike, played by Patrick O’Bryan and Hoax, played by Stephen Geoffreys (Fright Night). They both find a business card for a horoscope call-line. They just have to dial 976-Evil. It seems like harmless fun at first, but it turns out that the phone line is a direct connection to the devil.
It’s hard not to think that this is a stupid concept, and it is. The film also executes this concept quite poorly. It’s not scary in the slightest, the acting is the most horrific part of it. Even though it is only 90ish minutes, the film really drags, and it feels longer. There is also an extended version, but I’m not going near that one. The only good thing that can be said about it is that the effects are pretty decent, dated by today’s standard, but good for the time. That isn’t enough though. It’s a forgettable film that really isn’t worth the time.
The only reason to watch this is because it’s Englund’s first directed film. Other than die-hard horror fans who are interested in the history of the genre, there isn’t a reason to watch 976-Evil. It’s not so bad that it’s funny, and it isn’t good. The acting is horrible, which may be typical of 1980s horror but it is hard to get past. The only highlight is Sandy Dennis (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf) as Aunt Lucy, a religious nut who believes that Hoax is being corrupted by his cousin. She’s hamming it up and is intentionally funny. It’s not enough to warrant watching the film, but at least it picks up when she’s on screen. Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager, Stargate) also makes an appearance as the owner of the phone line to the devil. It’s not a big role, but still a surprise to see. You can combine this with Night of the Comet to get a horror marathon of early appearances of the ST Voyager cast, it’s just one’s great and the other isn’t.
The main character is Hoax, which is a stupid name. He’s a geeky kid who’s bullied at school, having to be protected by his cousin Spike all the time. It’s a typical character type, but with a twist. He’s beyond creepy. This is probably because his mum, Aunt Lucy, keeps him on a short leash. He spies on girls, steals their underwear and when he’s found out he decides to torment the girl with a hoard of spiders, sacrificing his pet spider in the process. He’s creepy and not likable even before the devil gets involved.
976-Evil would only be interesting to horror fans. There is nothing here for anyone else. It’s a fairly forgotten film and shouldn’t be revisited. It’s really boring and just isn’t scary. There is probably a good story in the concept somewhere and maybe one day it will get a remake that will do it justice.