Robert Englund had assured his place in horror history with his iconic Freddy Krueger from Wes Craven’s seminal ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and its increasingly daft sequels. Like many actors Englund wanted to direct and 976-Evil was his chance. Made in 1988 he was approached by producer Lisa Hansen whose company, having produced quality concerts and comedy shows but bizarrely were not being picked up internationally, hit paydirt when she bought and distributed a ropey action film called ‘Courier of Death’. To her surprise It made the company a stack of cash and the company now turned to producing films in that genre when the 976-EVIL script landed on her desk. Co-written by Brian Helgeland, it was one of his first scripts along with that for Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and in fairness he would make his mark with his adapted screenplay for ‘LA Confidential’ winning an Oscar in the process. But that was 9 years away.
976-EVIL saw high school underdog Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys) fill up his hours in his seedy hometown fending off the local louts whilst avoiding his overbearing mother (Sandy Dennis) whilst dreaming of a date with trailer trash Suzie (Lezlie Deane). But his quietly desperate life takes a terrifying turn when his cousin introduces him to a new hobby – phoning in for his ‘horrorscope’. Hoax is hooked up with a demonic force that begins to take over his life and he soon finds that there’s more than just a hefty phone call to pay for anyone who crosses him.
It was to be the first horror film that Hansen’s company had produced and as an audience hook she approached Englund to star as well as direct. To her surprise he was only interested in directing and it was a gamble as he’d never worked in that capacity but his name was enough of a hook to sell the film. Costing only $850,000 it was a low budget even then but Englund had learned a lot from the Elm Street films and there are plenty of neat touches in the film if you look out for them (a cinema called ‘El Diablo’, a box of cakes called Devil Twins, a Fright Night poster etc). But 976- EVIL plays much like a horror version of Revenge of the Nerds and though competently made it looks like many 80’s horror films in that it’s lit like a pop video. Yet despite this the film went on to make a healthy profit and an Italian funded sequel was made in 1991 albeit with a female lead played by the winner of a TV talent show. Despite the film’s success Englund would not direct for another 20 years with the poorly received ‘Killer Pad’ in 2008. He has not directed since.
Now released on blu-ray for the first time 976-EVIL the disc has a decent number of bonus features including an extended version of the film from its original VHS home video release. Robert Englund provides an enthusiastic commentary with the films set decorator Nancy Booth which might sound odd but the pair met on set and married soon afterwards. There’s interviews with make-up effects men Howard Berger and also Kevin Yagher who had worked on the Elm Street films and Englund insisted on the effects maestro working on his directorial debut. There’s also an informative collectors booklet for the first 2000 discs.
Here’s the 976-EVIL trailer……..
976-EVIL IS RELEASED ON BLU RAY ON 19TH OCTOBER 2020