“Demonic possession is good for boosting low self-esteem and settling scores with old enemies, but unfortunately, it’s bad for your skin.”

With psychic, chat, and sex hotlines gaining popularity in the late 80’s, it wasn’t long before the “for entertainment purposes only” trend inspired a horror movie involving a 976 number. And that’s exactly what we get with “976-Evil.” Though the movie should’ve been titled “976-Awful.” This was a huge directorial dud from Springwood’s resident nightmare man, Robert Englund, who took a brief break from harvesting the souls of sleeping Elm Street children to helm this crappy little horror flick.

Things get started when a dweeb named Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys) starts playing a deadly game of Satan Says after calling what appears to be a harmless horoscope hotline. And with the help of his spiritual advisor from Hell, it isn’t long before he’s dialing up some good ol’ supernatural revenge against his abusers.

The mostly mid-twenties cast looks like audition rejects from any number of 80’s movies. First up we have a bathroom bully and amateur card shark who thinks he is “Duckie” from “Pretty in Pink.” Another guy at the poker game reminded me of Ivan Drago from “Rocky 4” without the Russian accent, and about 65 lbs lighter, like he went on some kind of crazy all grapefruit diet. Spike (Patrick O’Bryan) is an “Eddie and the Cruisers” greaser-type and has a full-time job defending his wimpy cousin, Hoax, from the bathroom bullies at school. When this soft-hearted bad boy isn’t saving helpless geeks from being humiliated, he enjoys toying with his girlfriend’s, Suzie’s, emotions, and spends late nights gambling away his self-respect and personal belongings at high-stakes poker games. Suzie is a short-haired blonde cutie who dresses like she raided Cindy Lauper’s closet. This fashion-trendy girl just wants to have fun two-timing her boyfriend, Spike, and teasing us movie viewers by barely showing her little half-pints for the camera. Even though these characters had about as much appeal and depth as a scratch ‘n’ sniff sticker, the film does provide one colorful personality, an amped-up Bible-beater named Aunt Lucy (Sandy Dennis), who looks like a cross between “Mimi” from “The Drew Carey Show” and the demented cafeteria lady from high school, who worked or still works the lunch line. Her onscreen performance is so campy, you’ll want to stake a tent and roast some marshmallows.

Many of the deaths, like the one involving a neon pitchfork sign, had all the excitement and visual flare of an Amish fashion show. Kevin Yagher (“Sleepy Hollow”, “Mission Impossible 2″) was the effects supervisor on this production, but it didn’t look like he was doing much supervising. Unfortunately, we get several lame kills that had the energy of a weak cell phone signal, and were in desperate need of a blood transfusion. Next are a couple of failed cheesy poker humor gags involving a deadman’s hand and a pair of human hearts that were about as funny as being awakened at 3 in the morning by a drunk person calling the wrong number. The film’s only decent curtain call occurs at the very beginning, with a guy bursting into flames like the Hindenburg, after making the fatal mistake of not returning the Dark Master’s phone calls. Sadly, there were kills that felt tacked on in order to beef-up a skinny running time. An example is the death of a lady walking down a street who gets julienned by some flying glass shards after finding out that when you’re on the Devil’s calling plan, roaming charges are killer. Although the film has several misses in the kill department, there is one curtain call involving Suzie’s deadly dinner date with a group of spiders that almost hits the target. However it ended up being about as effective as using a toy cap gun at a skeet shoot competition. It’s a real shame, too, because if the scene had been handled by a director who understood how to film scenes of terror, the sequence could have caused a”heebie jeebee’s” reaction similar to the cockroaches segment, “They’re creeping up on you,” from the movie “Creepshow.” But, instead of grabbing a can of Raid, I was reaching for a Red Bull so I could stay awake during this mess of a bore-fest. And while we’re on the subject of misses and near misses, the film does have one truly cringe-worthy scene. It involves the newly possessed “Hell Geek”, a.k.a. Hoax, having a Freddy Krueger moment as he gives a bathroom bully a close shave using his supersized demon claw. Now, maybe director Robert Englund thought he was being clever but, the Krueger homage was so stale it would make a dinner roll from the Last Supper found today seem fresh.

Also, this movie has absolutely no scares or suspense whatsoever. The only scary thing worth mentioning is where director Englund and crew filmed the crack house interior shots for the movie theater and high school bathroom. The locations looked so disgusting that I wanted to pause the movie and visit a free clinic to make sure that I didn’t catch anything. Seriously, a sewer pipe would think twice before backing up in any of these places. Then there is the issue of the film’s dial-up-connection-like pacing. I could be watching this movie, go into a coma for 5 years, wake up, and I’d still only be half-way through the movie. Unfortunately, what started out as a cool movie title and premise, quickly turned into an incoherent disaster of throw-away scenes, piss-poor acting, and amateur looking visual effects. And when the end credits began marching on screen, I was wishing that this number had been disconnected.

Don’t expect to find Miss Cleo, or anyone from the Psychic Frauds Network, manning the phones when you dial this number.

Roadside Attractions

– Killer icicle chandler
– Robo-caller from hell
– Hell actually does freeze over
– Supersized demon hands
– Reckless use of a moped
– Raining fish from the sky
– Electrifying death by neon pitchfork sign
– A severed hand
– A pair of human hearts
– Wheels of death Camaro

Rated 3.0 out of 10


Check out the trailer for 976-Evil

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