Director: Robert Englund
Script: Rhet Topham & Brian Helgeland
Cast: Stephen Geoffreys, Jim Metzler, Maria Rubell, Lezlie Deane, J.J. Cohen, Pat O’ Brien, Sandy Dennrs, Robert Picardo
Running time: 92 minutes
High school nerd and frequent victim of bullying, Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys, Fright Night) has a bromance sort of obsession with his cousin, Spike (Pat O’Brien), who resides in his mum’s garage apartment next door. His mum (Sandy Dennis) is an over-bearing bible-basher, who constantly gives him grief too, and she disapproves of everything his slightly older cousin does, including dating girls, something which Hoax longs to do too. When Spike’s latest conquest, Suzie (Lezlie Deane), catches Hoax’s eye he begins to have a serious crush on her.
When Spike introduces him to a new ‘hobby’ i.e. that of phoning a strange ‘horrorscope’ number, Hoax soon becomes hooked and finds that the phone line really can predict the future, but at a terrible price. Soon the neighbourhood nerd finds himself with a girlfriend (Suzie, after she dumps Spike), and with the ability to fend off the local bullies who’ve been making his life hell, but at what cost to himself and his soul?
I’ve wanted to see this enjoyable slice of 80s horror, directed by Robert ‘Freddy Kruger’ Englund, for quite some time, hence, with this Blu-ray release, (for the first time in the UK), I was keen to get acquainted with it.
Co-written by Brian Helgeland (LA Confidential, Mystic River), and featuring some rather nifty old school practical effects work from Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger (supervised by Kevin Yagher), 976 – Evil is cool, in a rather kitschy way, and has a pacing to the story-telling that won’t sit well with some modern horror fans as it spends much of the first two acts setting up the characters and allowing us to witness revealing glimpses into their private lives. That’s not to say that the pay-off is poor – it’s not – but it takes quite a while to get there, is all.
The acting is good, especially from Stephen Geoffreys, who Englund puts through the ringer here with his character’s story arc, and Sandy Dennis is good fun too as the crazy, religious zealot mother. Englund certainly gave his actors some good direction as the main characters are all three dimensional and believable. The set design is also worth a mention as the film looks great and has plenty of quirkiness to it that’s probably even more appealing today than it was when the film was initially released.
The film is well made and, although it had a modest budget (approximately $850K), delivers enough ‘bang for your buck’ to make the viewer feel that they’ve not been cheated. I particularly enjoyed the retro special effects work and also the 80s cars and fashions on display – it took me back to another time and place that I sometimes quite miss…
A sequel, of sorts, 976 – Evil II, was made in 1991, with director Jim Wynorski (Street Trash) taking the reins, but I haven’t seen that film yet so I can’t comment on it, but now that I’ve seen this one I’d quite like to.
Eureka! is distributing 976 – Evil on Blu-ray. There are a bunch of extras on the disc which include:
Extended VHS release (4 x 3 ratio) (105 mins)
Kevin Yagher interview (18.31) – An interesting chat with special effects maestro Kevin Yagher, who explains that he had a good relationship with Robert Englund, after working with him on Nightmare on Elm Street, and that’s how he got the job. Sadly one of the clever props he made for the film never made it into the finished movie due to the runner picking up the wrong mechanical hand. Doh!
Howerd Berger interview (10.40) – Berger talks about Robert Englund’s style of direction (he’s good with actors, apparently) and how working with cats is a nightmare!
Lisa Hanson interview (17.55 mins) – The film’s producer talks about how she started out in the industry, (by writing reviews for cable TV), about her company’s early days (they produced the likes of Far Out Man and Relentless 3) and about the production itself. She regales us with some interesting anecdotes such as when she had to phone the mayor of where they were shooting in the early hours of the morning to get an extension on a permit, otherwise they’d have been in major trouble. Apparently the film was successful on VHS internationally.
Image gallery – 34 stills, mostly photos of Stephen Geoffreys being made up as the possessed Hoax. Oh, and spot the cool Lovecraftian T – shirt being worn by one of the VFX guys!