Review: 976-EVIL

Rhiannon Irons, a.k.a Ahlephia, here with a movie review.  Now I know what you’re thinking, I don’t normally do reviews, however this is one film that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell you all about.  WARNING: There be spoilers ahead.

Call now to hear your HORRORscope.

What would happen if you called a 976 number only to get the devil? Aside from a mild heart attack and a sudden impulse to pray for your immortal soul, you’d be wondering what the hell kind of nightmare you wandered into.

Directed by Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street) and starring Stephen Geoffreys, Patrick O’Bryan and Academy Award winner Sandy Dennis, 976-EVIL is an 80’s movie with an original concept.

Englund steps behind the camera for the first time to film a story about a couple of cousins, Spike and Hoax, who are as different as night and day. Spike (O’Bryan) is cool, riding around on his motorbike, picking up women, having sex and playing poker. Hoax (Geoffreys) is a nerd. Plain and simple. He has his head flushed down the toilet every day at school. He’s bullied by Spike’s friends. He has trouble talking to girls. His scooter is tricked out with the sounds of a motorbike all because he wants to be like his cousin.

Hoax lives with his overbearing religious mother (Dennis). Spike lives with them too, except he resides in an apartment over the garage which looks into Hoax’s room. If that wasn’t enough of a creepy obsession, Hoax sends Spike messages via a tube while Spike is having sex with his girlfriend (Suzie).

So how does the devil get involved?

Spike is lying on his bed, flipping through a magazine when a scrap of paper falls out that reads “For your Horrorscope 666 Dial 976-EVIL.” Not thinking anything of it, Spike does. A creepy voice on the other end tells him his future in that his finances will turn around. Spike then enters the kitchen and steals some of his aunt’s money that is hidden in a cookie jar.

From there fish fall from the sky, which in turn attracts the attention of a reporter. Spike’s aunt thinks it’s a sign from God, asking Spike to repent his ways.

Spike leaves his aunt’s place in favour of taking Suzie out on a date. But once they arrive at the movies, Spike is roped into playing a game of poker with his bully buddies. Getting irritated with him, his girlfriend leaves.

By this time, Hoax has entered Spike’s bedroom where he discovers a pair of panties that belong to Suzie. Shoving them into his pocket, Hoax notices the paper with the 976-EVIL number on it. Wanting to be cool like his cousin, Hoax dials the number. He is told that to get what he deserves he should take in a late show with the girl of his dreams.

Following the advice, Hoax goes to the cinema only to run into Spike’s girlfriend who he has a secret crush on. From there they go to the near by pizza parlour where they share a pizza and have a good time until a spider appears on the table. Hoax learns that Spike’s girlfriend is afraid of them so he takes it outside only to have Spike’s friends show up, stomping on it. As they beat up Hoax they discover the panties in his pocket which in turn makes Suzie angry at him, thinking he’s nothing more than a pervert. She tells him that she thought he was different.

Feeling rejected, and wanting to teach her a lesson, Hoax calls the horrorscope hotline. He performs a spell to make a spider or two appear before her, scaring her. But it backfires when numerous spiders appear, sending Suzie into a panic that kills her.

Feeling guilty, Hoax tries to confess to Spike who ends up attacking him in the locker rooms at school. Hoax vows that one day his cousin would be the one on the ground while he was standing above him. And that’s where the fun begins.

Hoax calls back and this time he yearns for more power. The power he receives turns him into a monster with sharp claws where his fingernails use to be. He manages to beat up his bullies at school. When he gets home, the devil has taken him over completely. His mother notices this, and before she can do anything, Hoax kills her.

From there he returns to the cinema in hopes of exacting revenge on his bullies. Two of them leave the strip poker game to stuff Hoax into a dumpster while the remainder stay to watch their gang girl strip. Hoax returns and asks if he can open with a pair of hearts. At that moment he pulls out two human hearts and lays them on the table.

The film turns bloody as he rips of the hand of one of his bullies while the other flees with the gang girl. Hoax stalks them before brutally slaying the male, leaving the poor girl crying and shaking on the rooftop of the cinema.

By this time the reporter has caught up with Spike and Angela, the school principal, and has informed them that something satanic has happened to Hoax.

Racing back to Hoax’s place, the reporter and Angela discover that Hell indeed has frozen over and that Hoax is now the devil himself.

Spike comes in to save the day, pushing Hoax into a flaming pit that had opened up in the backyard.

The end of the film sees the man who invented the horrorscope sitting at his desk while the machine picks up the next caller who will be possessed by the devil.

For a B-Graded 80’s horror movie, this was rather enjoyable because it is an unique concept.

The characters of Hoax and Spike, whilst stereotypical, were also easy to not only associate with, but easy to sympathise with. While Hoax is being bullied, you feel for him. Although, when he takes his revenge I can’t say that I was cheering for him.

The make-up effects on Hoax were really good considering the decade that it was made. The special effects for the time would have been fantastic, but by today’s standards they’re terribly fake. Englund’s direction was great, building the characters up, allowing the audience to feel for them. There are a couple of cheap laughs and scares. The spider sequence would have had me shaking like a leaf on set. Over all, it is worth a watch.

Rating: 6/10

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