976-Evil (1988) **
D: Robert Englund
C: Stephen Geoffreys, Jim Metzler, Sandy Dennis, Maria Rubell, Pat O'Bryan, Lezlie Deane, J.J. Cohen, Paul Willson, Greg Collins
Plot Synopsis: Dialing the number for something called Horrorscope puts a bullied teen (Stephen Geoffreys) in touch with the devil.
Review: The premise is simple. A teen, who's always been bullied, gets his chance for revenge thanks to a telephone hotline that taps into the darker recesses of his mind. As his takes on this monstrous behavior, of extracting violent revenge, his exterior appearance changes to that of a monster to reflect how he's changed mentally.
Stephen Geoffreys plays the bullied teen in a credible performance. However, first time director, Robert Englund (of Freddy Krueger fame), trips up in the overall visual presentation. Some of the characters are styled to look like greasers from the movies of yesteryear. Oscar winning actress, Sandy Dennis, is donned in an over the top wig and wears a variety of cheap looking dresses & night gowns with either floral prints or bold colors that look downright tacky.
Playing in the background, on a television set, is an assortment of commercials featuring bible thumpers screaming to the high heavens. Some of the characters hang out at a theater which plays an array of horror movies. Others frequent dingy diners or motorcycle shops. In my guesstimation, Englund probably thought that the premise behind 976-Evil was rather generic. So, in an effort, to spice things up, he resorted to visual embellishments. To give credit where it's due, Englund has created a distinct world that feels like an exaggerated version of something out of David Lynch's Blue Velvet.
In presenting this over the top take on suburbia, it distracts from Geoffreys' performance, his character and the inner turmoil that he feels that we're supposed to be relating to. What makes or breaks this type of movie is whether the audience connects to the main character seeking revenge. Instead of connecting to the main character & his plight, Englund seems more concerned with wanting viewers to connect to this world that he's created.
What Englund has failed to understand is that the reason this premise has continued to endure is, because it taps into a universal emotion that everyone has experienced at some point in their lives. After all, who hasn't wanted revenge for the things that others have done to them? [R] 92 minutes.
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