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  976-EVIL Vile Dial
Year: 1988
Director: Robert Englund
Stars: Stephen Geoffreys, Patrick O'Bryan, Sandy Dennis, Jim Metzler, María Rubell, Lezlie Deane, J.J. Cohen, Paul Willson, Greg Collins, Darren E. Burrows, Joanna Keyes, Gunther Jenson, J.J. Johnston, John Slade, Demetre Phillips, Robert Picardo
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys) is a teenage student who lives with his religious mother, Lucy (Sandy Dennis) while his much cooler cousin Spike (Patrick O'Bryan) stays in the house across the street. He looks up to his relation, because he knows he will never be as capable or as accepted as Spike is, but there is something about to enter his life which may increase his standing. There is a telephone line called Horrorscopes - just dial 976-EVIL - whose flyers keep turning up across the city, and Spike has picked one up. He calls it and gets a cryptic message, though soon after an unexpected event occurs: a shower of fish.

And soon after that another unexpected event occurs: you fall asleep. Well, no, it wasn't quite that bad, but considering who directed this and why he presumably got the job, you would be forgiven for hoping that 976-EVIL would have a lot more oomph to its shocks and shivers. That director was Robert Englund, and he was by 1988 a superstar in the horror field, with every fan knowing him from his Freddy Krueger role and the others in that style that he had taken over the years, so one assumes when he asked to direct a film the association with a big franchise was what got him the job. Alas, while there were a few Krueger-esque touches to this, what you actually got was yet another Carrie rehash.

There were rumours that Englund had been taken off this film while parts were reshot, but if that was true then perhaps it was past saving, as there was not too much inspired about it. It did garner a measure of the notoriety that the earlier Fright Night did due to the star of both being Stephen Geoffreys, but then you could say that about any mainstream film he appeared in, as his next gig after this was to enter the gay porn world. If you were a fan of horror movies who was also a fan of gay porn, then he would be your ideal star one supposes, but usually this information prompted the typical "OMG LOLZ" reaction, and is relegated to an adults-only trivia question.

As it was Geoffreys wasn't too much different here as he was in Fright Night, with his creepy nerd persona well into effect, except he got even less to do as the film could be divided into two halves. One, the first section where Hoax tries to beat the bullies and get a girlfriend, his candidate being Spike's girlfriend Suzie (Lezlie Deane, one of the best things about this), and two, when this turns into a run of the mill eighties possession yarn. This is something to do with the Horrorscope number, although the details are so murky that it's hard to tell precisely what, but it's some kind of portal to Hell or whatever, you know the drill. Spike starts using it when he notices its rhyming predictions coming true, and Hoax follows his lead.

However, every so often we watch a minor character meet an untimely demise when the phone system gets its revenge, or takes their souls, or whatever it's doing, so we witness a man blown up in a public call box, or a woman killed by an exploding telephone shop window. Meanwhile, our male Carrie is victimised, both by the toughs and by his fundie mother (Dennis is the other good thing about this), until he snaps. Snapping involves getting taken over by the 976-EVIL demons (?) and using his newfound powers to wreak all the havoc the budget would allow, which included making a joke at a poker game about hearts, and opening up Hell in his basement. Robert Picardo appears in a promising role as the cold-ridden businessman who set up, then cancelled, the number, but he barely appears for long enough, so about the only really distinctive aspect to this was how dingy it looked, with the gleaming suburbia of so many eighties horrors replaced by some truly grim-looking neighbourhoods. Music by Thomas Chase and Steve Rucker.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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