976-Evil (1989)


To Robert Englund’s credit, he might not have carved out a career as a film director, but “976-Evil” is like an extended EC Comic segment. It’s colored wonderfully, the direction is quite excellent, and Englund is able to create a bleak revenge horror film that ends on a note suggesting a wider story at hand. It’s too bad the sequel didn’t expand on these ideas, in spite of its guilty pleasure status.

Spike lives across the yard from his cousin Hoax, a sheltered young man with an oedipal complex who lives with his religious fanatic mother. She is devoutly Christian but keeps Spike poor for the sake of living on his inheritance. When Spike comes across a mysterious hotline card in a magazine offering a horrorscope, he introduces the Satanic element that he never wanted to come across. What begins as a mere coincidence is hinted as a potential beginning for an all out Armageddon. Before Spike comes across the hotline, the sky begins raining fishes. A local detective comes in to town to investigate the mysterious raining fish and begins to learn that it’s possibly a sign of an impending Armageddon.

Meanwhile everyone who calls in for a horrorscope begin to form a dependence on their fate, that begins as a mildly coincidental prediction, and leads them down a dark path to losing their souls. If they fail to comply, they die viciously. Spike is one of the few members of the horrorscope who desires riches and material goods, but consciously avoids temptation, thus he becomes a nemesis to the horrorscope as it seeks to strike him down for his defiance. When his temptation isn’t enough, Hoax becomes the villain of the piece who becomes addicted to the horrorscope and uses the opportunity to get back at the group of high schoolers that make his life miserable. “976-Evil” surely isn’t a perfect movie. The writers center on Hoax’s love for Spike’s girlfriend, and then suddenly side steps the sub-plot abruptly ending it mid-way.

Also, Brian Metzler’s character of Marty seems to realize how absurd the premise is approaching every situation with an eye roll. Whether or not it’s intended as tongue in cheek is never indicated, thus it’s a distracting sub-plot that also goes nowhere. Stephen Geoffrey’s transformation from loser to demonic being is compelling though, and his obsession with the hotline leads in to a series of disturbing paybacks for the people that make his life difficult. Geoffreys really gives an outstanding performance, and makes his character’s ultimate form of vengeance vicious. Especially when he takes great pleasure in tormenting his victims before mutilating them. “976-Evil” was a step forward in to a larger sense of mythos and a great storyline. It’s a shame that Englund’s seeds were never realized in to a great sequel with a wider scope.