Some of the movies I watch I only learned about from books, which is partly why I read so many movie books. That, and I have no life.
I was turned on to Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead in the early 90’s because of a piece I read in Chet Flippo’s book Everybody Was Kung-Fu Dancing. The Rolling Stone writer described what it was like on set during the filming of Dawn, and I was intrigued by the idea of survivalists clearing a shopping mall of zombies. The result was a fell in love with a movie I overwise wouldn’t have rented at that time.
Similarly, I only learned about 976-EVIL from a piece in Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s, edited by Kier-La Janisse. I doubt I would have seen this movie if I had not been intrigued by the write-up about it there. Unfortunately, this movie is nowhere near as good as Dawn, but I found it enjoyable enough for something I could enjoy, courtesy of my increasingly-relaxed standards.
The lead is played by Stephen Geoffreys, whom most will likely remember as Evil Ed in Fright Night. This role isn’t radically different from what he played there: nerdy, with a suppressed twitchy energy that always feels like it is in danger of being unleashed. He gets bullied at school, infantilized by his mother at home, and longs for an unattainable dream girl.
Pretty much boilerplate for a movie like this. And, inevitably, there will be some sort of supernatural device that gives the poor sap special abilities, only to eventually corrupt him for its own diabolical purposes. This time around, it is a phone service called “Horrorscope”, and I’ll give you zero guesses as to its phone number. I have no idea why anybody in the movie would feel inclined to call this service (especially odd there isn’t an area code), let alone why nobody hangs up when it prompts you to enter 666 to continue. I wondered what people still using dial phones would do—could failure to upgrade to a touchtone phone save your soul?
I won’t say much more about this movie. I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything, though 976-EVIL largely follows a certain template. Besides, if you’re watching this kind of movie, you’re not really looking for surprises. You’re looking for kills, some snappy one-liners (especially after the kiss) and maybe some nudity as a bonus. Fans of movies like the Freddy Krueger series will especially enjoy the visual aesthetic that is “80’s hair metal music video” (I doubt it is a coincidence that Freddy himself, Robert Englund, directs here).
976-EVIL is a movie strictly for genre fans and it succeeds on those terms but it won’t win over anybody not already predisposed to like it.
Dir: Robert Englund
Starring Stephen Geoffreys