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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents

976-Evil (1989)

"Out of the darkness and into the light, comes your horror-scope on this dark and stormy night."- demonic voice on telephone

Stars: Stephen Geoffreys, Patrick O'Bryan
Other Stars: Sandy Dennis, Jim Metzler, Maria Rubell, Lezlie Deane, J.J. Cohen, Robert Picardo
Director: Robert Englund

MPAA Rating: R for (nudity, language, violence)
Run Time: 01h:32m:17s
Release Date: 2002-08-13
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D- D-C-C+ D+


DVD Review

There were a lot of really painfully bad horror movies made in the 1980s, and this is certainly one of them. Directed by an in-his-prime Freddy Krueger himself Robert Englund (and so far his ONLY theatrical directing gig), 976-Evil is a dated, uninteresting mess that all but dares a viewer to try and stay awake for the entire 92 minutes. With a horror icon (at the time, anyways) as director, and a story written by Brian Helgeland, who would go on to write L.A. Confidential, it seems that this one should have been much better than it ultimately proved to be.

The premise is horribly thin, and Helgeland's attempt at story padding is very apparent, and completely distracting; minor plot points drag on, and then suddenly go nowhere. The meat of the plot, however, is the demonic 900 number of the title that offers callers what is referred to as "horrorscopes," which seem to be some sort of cross between telling the future and providing satanic motivational messages. True to genre form, the calls come with a price, and here that amounts to basically getting back at guys who like to dunk people in toilets. Oh yeah, did I mention you turn into a demon, too?

The film is centered around Hoax Wilmoth (Stephen Geoffreys), who is the nerdy, argyle-sweater-wearing cousin of leather clad biker tough guy Spike (Patrick O'Bryan). Geoffreys, who went on to star in porn films, was the spiky-haired kid from Fright Night, and his portrayal here is probably ten times more of an annoyance, a fact that I just didn't think was possible.

Hoax, in a desperate attempt to become popular, starts calling 976-Evil, and it is not until the final 35 minutes that anything remotely horror-related starts to occur. By that time, all of the demonic latex in the world couldn't save this film, and despite an unintentionally funny moment during Hoax's transformation where he resembles Michael Jackson, there just isn't anything here that merits watching. Sure, we get a whole house-as-a-hell-portal climax, but the buildup is so slow that the last half hour almost seems like it was lifted from a different film entirely. It takes a good 45 minutes for the first real spooky thing to happen, and that turns out to be nothing more than a spider-filled TV dinner. That's the best a demonic 900 number could come up with?

Hoax's big battle with a gang of toughs, led by a guy who looks like a reject from the band Kajagoogoo, is by-the-numbers movie revenge stuff, and includes the film's only shining bit of dialogue, which occurs during a high-stakes poker game. The juiced-up-with-ever-increasing-levels-of-demonic-goodness Hoax utters a string of Krueger-ish one-liners before dispatching the baddies, and the whole series of events comes across like the tired retread that it is.

In an odd bit of casting, Academy AwardŽ winner Sandy Dennis co-stars as Hoax's overly religious mother Lucy, and her performance is a shrill, embarrassing parody of Piper Laurie's brilliant role from Carrie. Bedecked in an array of beehive wigs and endlessly spouting pious gobbledy-gook, Dennis is alarmingly over-the-top at all times, and her welcome, inevitable demise in the film does not come one moment too soon.

Rating for Style: D-
Rating for Substance: D-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: It's almost like Columbia TriStar knew this film was a clunker, and likely figured why bother with a widesreen transfer; that just might be construed as putting perfume on a pig. The less than perfect 1.33:1 full-frame transfer is marred by a large amount of dirt and source print flaws, which right off the bat tell me that 976-Evil was not given the royal restoration treatment. The overall transfer renders the image soft and hazy, with a visually nagging amount of fine grain. Fleshtones look a little to red, especially during some of the oddly lit interior shots, where colors occasionally bleed noticeably.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Much like generic grocery store items, the audio on this disc is listed ever so plainly as "Audio: English." Back in the day, the film was originally released in Ultra-Stereo, and the mix here sounds like a weird blend of half-baked stereo and good ol' mono. There actually is a bit of noticeable left and right separation at times, mostly from ambient sounds, which boosts the depth of the soundfield up a notch or two. Dialogue, unfortunately, largely retains the characteristics of a flat mono track, though it is clear and mostly hiss-free.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+ 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Fright Night, Hollow Man
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Here's one time when I was glad there weren't any extras, because it means I could get this disc out of my player that much sooner. An odd pairing of trailers (Stephen Geoffrey's Fright Night and alsoHollow Man), 28 chapters, and Columbia TriStar's generous array of subtitles (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese) are all that's here.

Extras Grade: D+

Final Comments

Easily one of the worst horror films of the last 25 years, the only claim to fame it has is that 976-Evil was directed by Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund. It is a slow moving, dull affair with one-dimensional characters and a meandering, and ultimately predictable storyline that manages to borrow an ending right out of Of Mice And Men. The last half hour at least LOOKS like a horror movie (demons, dismemberment, etc), but it takes so long getting there that I really didn't care.

Run away. Run very far away.

Rich Rosell 2002-12-09