976-Evil is the directorial debut of Freddy Krueger actor Robert Englund. It’s… oppressively average. Basically, it’s about two brothers: Spike (Patrick O’Bryan), the cool long-haired leather-jacket-wearing motorcycle-riding older brother, and Hoax (Fright Night’s Evil Ed, Stephen Geoffreys), the dweeby socially awkward younger brother who peeps on his brother’s girlfriend changing.
Spike discovers a call-in line called 976-Evil, a number that ostensibly gives horoscope readings but actually bestows the caller with demonic powers in return for their soul. Spike starts calling the number but soon grows conscientious about his deeds and backs away, but soon Hoax finds the number and begins using it to get revenge on all the people he feels has wronged him. This reversal of character dynamic is the one unique and interesting quality about 976-Evil. It’s not what I would call a bad movie but there’s nothing that really stands out about it. It’s really no surprise that, barring a couple episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares, Englund wouldn’t direct again until 2008’s equally-if-not-more forgettable Killer Pad. (It’s about a house, not a sanitary napkin, that would’ve made it far more memorable.)
Why a sequel was even greenlit is a mystery to me and I was even unaware that one even existed until a couple years ago. When I decided to do 31 sequels for this year, 976-Evil 2 was right in the back of my mind and I decided to sate my curiosity.
Now there is a place that 976-Evil could’ve gone in further adventures. Spoiler alert, the first film ends with Hoax dying and being sucked into Hell. Spike is angered by his inability to save his brother and vows to go out and stop the number (which was revealed to be an automated phone service line at a local call center earlier in the movie) which in the movie’s stinger is revealed to be run by the devil himself. So now we can deal with Spike’s attempt to stop the devil, right?
Nah, not really. Spike does ride into town on the trail of people affected by the number but for the most part the sequel is just a rehash of the first. This time the demonically influenced person is the dean of a local college, Mr. Grubek (Rene Assa) who is caught murdering a student. Locked up in the local jail, he uses astral projection powers to kill off the witness in his trial and continue his killing spree, and stalking his obsession, Robin (Debbie James).
The movie is pretty dull. There are a couple of interesting deaths, the first involving Buck Flower exploding into wet giblets when he’s hit by a semi-truck. The second death involves one of Robin’s friends being sucked into the universe of It’s a Wonderful Life where George Bailey and all the other townspeople at the film’s end turn into Night of the Living Dead zombies and Zuzu Bailey stabs the friend to death with a trowel.
Does It Hold Up?
To the aggressive mediocrity of the first one? Pretty well for what that’s worth. It honestly feels like a movie that was written as its own thing and just turned into a sequel to 976-Evil 2 a few drafts in. Which, considering that 976-Evil is a low-rent A Nightmare on Elm Street knockoff, makes this movie a copy of a copy. Director Jim Wynorski is a bit more capable of making watchable trash than Robert Englund but considering his two biggest credits are Deathstalker II and Chopping Mall, there’s not a marked uptick in quality.
Rene Assa is a poor replacement for Stephen Geoffreys, he’s not bad but Geoffreys’ voice lent itself to the supernatural creep factor for Hoax. Assa just seems like a garden-variety creep. Debbie James is a passable leading lady but Robin does very little to move the plot along, most of it is done by Spike who has no real character arc and sacrifices himself meaninglessly in the third act just to get to a twist ending that is deliberately unsatisfying.
Nothing is done to further the mythology of the 976-Evil phone line, the devil character from the first movie doesn’t reappear, and Spike’s sacrifice does nothing to stop the line from finding more victims.
Watch, Toss, Or Buy?
You can watch it if you like, much like the first one it’s not really bad so much as it is forgettable.
Where Can I Find It?
The only version of this movie still in print is one of those cheapo 8-pack DVDs you find in bargain bins. The good news is if you don’t like it you can enjoy shitty-quality versions of Waxworks, Ghoulies 3, The Unholy, C.H.U.D. 2, Chopping Mall, Slaughter High, and Class of 1999.