My fondest memory of 900 and 976 numbers was when I was about 10 years old. I was huge into video games, and when I heard a commercial on TV for “action arcade”, I knew I had to put a few quarters into that machine. I ended up calling it about 8 times in a couple days before I realized that there were only 3 different outcomes no matter how many times I called. I didn’t think anything of it, but about a week or two later my mom asked me if I had been calling any phone numbers that I shouldn’t have. The phone bill ended up being $20 more than usual, and I was up shit’s creek with a turd for a paddle. A few years later, Robert Englund turned the 976 number on it’s ear with his directorial debut “976-EVIL
The plot of 976-Evil revolves around Spike, a teenage biker with no parents, who happens to live across the street from his ultra religious Aunt and cousin Hoax. Spike gets himself involved with the bad kids who hang out in the projection room of an old movie theater that plays a continuous marathon of horror flicks (and seats are only $1.99 – sounds like my kind of place!) In a particularly intense game of poker, he ends up losing the pink slip to his motorcycle. When he gets home, he finds a card in his pocket, one for a “horrorscope” hotline, 976-EVIL. It seems that 976-EVIL is speaking straight to him, and after following it’s advice, he makes back the money he lost in the poker game.
Everything is going great for Spike, which is in contrast to his cousin Hoax. Hoax is the nerdy momma’s boy who is sheltered from everything by his mother and the televangelists that beam into his house everyday. At school he gets swirlies and is the butt of everyone’s jokes. When he happens across Spike’s card for 976-Evil, it seems like a good opportunity to break away and rebel a little bit. Unfortunately for him, the hotline starts to figure out what he truly wants too, and it’s corrupting him. After he gets a little bit of power from the hotline, he’s become addicted to it, and starts to turn in something more evil than anyone could ever imagine.
976-EVIL is a great classic late 80’s horror film. It’s not too gory, but it has it in the right places. There are a couple of characters that they try to bring into the fold, but it seems like by the time they do it, it’s too late and end up being totally throwaway anyhow. It’s not like you’re probably watching these types of films for the character development, but it makes it hard to care about them when they show up to say a few lines and then disappear into the background.
Robert Englund helps bring a lot of credibility to the film with his first break into directing. Stephen Geoffreys
is great and almost as good as his breakout role in Fright Night a few years earlier. Unfortunately after this film he “disappeared” until his next film in 2007 (and by disappeared, I mean he took a 17 year soiree into gay porno.) Performances across the board are pretty good, but there are a few details that seem like they were lost on the cutting room floor. One thing that springs to mind is when Spike confronts Hoax near the end. He has some kind of weird gun that somehow just appears in his hand out of nowhere. Also, after an attack, one of the group of guys that Spike plays poker with has a bandage on his face, which is on the opposite side of where his actually injury is. Most of that is nitpicking though, and for the most part, the plot is pretty cohesive.
While nowadays you’ll probably never hear about someone calling a 900 or 976 number, this is a perfect time capsule of the late 80’s. Before the websites and forums were popular, people were getting their betting information and love advice from these phone numbers that charged ridiculous per minute rates and 976-EVIL really puts you in that state of mind and time frame. If you’re looking for a movie that’s got a decent amount of suspense and great 80’s horror to boot, 976-EVIL might be right up your alley. 976-EVIL gets 3.5 bloody toilets out of 5.