Friday, August 6, 2021


Robert Englund

The late 80s was the height of 900 numbers. For those who weren’t around at the time, in pre-internet days, you would see ads on late night television offering spooky thrills and sexy times at the push of a few phone buttons and a few dollars a minute. Much like b-movies, the real thrill was often in the advertisement rather than the content. Even Freddy Krueger had his own 900 number which leads us too…

This is Robert Englund’s directorial debut, and he’s obviously been taking notes while working on the Nightmare on Elm Street series. The look of 967-Evil definitely takes inspiration from the later films in the NoES franchise but with the neon cranked up significantly. There are some ambitious sequences that the movie doesn’t quite have the budget to pull off, but they get an A for effort. This film almost functions like a remake of Nightmare on Elm St. Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge gay subtext and all.

Meanwhile at my apartment.

The plot is a very by the numbers affair at its core. We have a poor nerdy loser who goes by the name of Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys) and his much more successful cousin, Spike (Patrick O’Bryan). Both of them live with Hoax’s mom, Lucy (Sandy Dennis), a religious fanatic and incredibly abusive force in their lives. Hoax gets hooked on calling 976-EVIL, a phone line which initially seems to only be giving out fortunes in a spooky voice, but soon it influences him to do evil acts and reward him demonic power. If you are familiar just about any demonic influence movie (Evilspeak (1981)) for an example, you know where this is all going.

Stephen Geoffreys is playing a riff on his famous Fright Night (1985) character, Evil Ed. Hoax is oppressed from all sides and underneath his meek demeanor lurks white hot rage. Geoffreys is a great character actor who should have been destined for greater things. I found him very entertaining throughout the movie. Patrick O’Bryan is less interesting as Spike but that is to be expected, he’s not the one turning into a clawed revenge demon with dorky sunglasses. Special mention goes to Robert Picardo as Mark Dark, the purveyor of the actual 976-Evil phone number.

"Ugh, CornNut breath."

It’s hard to escape the Nightmare on Elm St. parallels here. We’ve got a wisecracking monster with a clawed hand seeking revenge on those who have wronged him. We also get some significant Nightmare on Elm St. 2 elements with an oppressed main character who is subtextually given some sexuality issues through his interaction with the men and women in his life.

Is 976-Evil worth viewing? It never breaks new ground, but for a debut film, it holds together well. It is also interesting seeing Robert Englund employ many of the visual and narrative tricks of the film series that made him a household name. Heck it even garnered a direct-to-video sequel which is rarely talked about. 976-Evil is for the 1980s completist and trash enthusiast, anyone else might want to stick to watching Freddy movies.

No comments:

Post a Comment