976-Evil is not a good film. The film makes very little sense, the pacing is all over the place, and film is pretty tame, even by 1989's standards. That being said, the blu-ray is pretty solid especially in the video and audio department.
Alternate Home Video Version (1h 44m, SD, 1.33:1)
When 976-Evil was released on VHS, it was a bit longer than what was seen in theaters. This version of the film runs 12 minutes longer and contains a lot of character bits that were dropped from the theatrical version, presumably to get the run time down. While none of these scenes are crucial to the film, they do help a bit with the plot of the film. All I can say is: if you didn't like the film, this version is not going to change your mind. If you did like the film, then this version will be a nice alternative for the next time you watch the film.
One more thing: the theatrical version of the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This Home Video Version is presented the same way it was presented on VHS: in an open matte 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Nothing is lost with this ratio, but you will see more information on the top and bottom of the screen. I like that they presented this version like this. Brings back memories. A few screenshots of comparison between the two versions:
|Alternate Home Video Version|
|Alternate Home Video Version|
|Alternate Home Video Version|
Commentary with Director Robert Englund and Nancy Booth Englund
Englund and his wife, who was the production designer on the film, provide a decent commentary that has many gaps of silence. When they do talk, the information provided is good, but the silence will make even the most diehard 976-Evil fan want to turn off the track and just watch the film without it.
No trailer has been provided on this release which is a shame. It seems like Sony wants to go down the same road that Lionsgate did with the Vestron Video Collector's Series, what with the worn look to the packaging, but those releases, as well as releases from other companies like Shout! Factory, Arrow Video, and Synapse Films, usually contain the film's trailer. It's not like it is that hard to include the trailer. Oh well, not everything can be perfect.
The front slipcover features the film's original theatrical poster, which was also used for the film's VHS release. Also featured on the cover is a blub informing us that this release also contains the Alternate Home Video Version of the film. Down at the bottom of the package, at the right-hand side, is the old Columbia Pictures Home Video logo. The cover also contains faux wear and tear, making it appear that the package has seen better days.
The back of the slipcover is the normal Sony blu-ray layout giving us a synopsis of the film, the special features found on the disc, and tech specs.
The front and rear covers of the blu-ray case feature the exact same art found on the slipcover. There is nothing different between the two.
The disc art features a woman being felt up by the demon in the film.
There is also a slip containing a code for an Ultraviolet digital copy of the film.
The disc is REGION FREE
Sony is one of the few major companies that usually does right by there blu-rays. They may not port over all of the special features nor use a newer transfer, but they do provide the film with a good to great transfer almost every time out of the gate.
This is the case with 976-Evil. The film really shines on blu-ray. The picture has a very film-like feel to it, which is helped by the thin layer of grain seen throughout the film. Detail is very high, and not just in the close-ups. Colors don't pop off the screen like we would expect, but the film has a more neutral color palette, so that is to be expected. The print isn't completely clean, though, as specks of dirt and debris can be seen on occasion. Overall, though, this is a good transfer, and likely the best the film has ever looked.
Sony has given us a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and it is pretty good. The track isn't very effects heavy, but there are a few sounds, like the ring of the telephone that comes through with a nice level of clarity. There is a sense of immersion, but it isn't too much. The score sounds great and dialogue, focused to the center channel, is crisp and clean. A bit more immersion would have been nice, but I don't think that it was there to begin with so it would be fake now.
The movie centers around cousins Spike (Patrick O'Bryan) and Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys), both teenagers who live with Hoax's overtly religious mother Lucy (Sandy Dennis). While Spike is the neighborhood motorcycle bad boy, Hoax is an introverted nerd. Even though Spike genuinely cares for his cousin and protects him from bullies, Hoax is filled with resentment that he cannot stand up for himself or get the girl he wants (both of which Spike does effortlessly).
Both boys stumble upon 976-EVIL, which on the surface is just a novelty phone line that gives creepy-themed fortunes for a few dollars. However, the line is actually used by Satan to subtly corrupt mortals into his bidding. Spike loses interest in the line quickly, but Hoax soon discovers the true nature of the line and uses it to get revenge on everyone who has wronged him.
When I read the plot synopsis for 976-Evil, I thought that it sounded like a great film. Even after seeing the film, I still think that it SOUNDS like a great premise, but the film that we are presented is not the film that we ultimately see.
That is not to say that the synopsis is wrong. Everything you read in that synopsis happens in the film. Hoax is bullied and falls hard for the girlfriend of his cousin Spike. Hoax even kills her while trying to do some demon shit to make her fall in love with him. All of this does happen in the film, but it happens in the worst possible, storytelling way.
The film tries to set up the characters, but we don't really know the characters. We know of them, but they are one-dimensional and thus, we don't really care about them. Hoax is bullied a few times, but it is never so much to put anyone into trying satanic rituals. He gets a swirly and people make fun of him, but it comes off as it would in a 50's film. Some kids are jocks, others are geeks. The jocks pick on the geeks. That is the way it goes. Had the bullies done more to Hoax, then I would be behind him doing what he needed to do to get that sweet revenge.
There are also characters that are set up that have some really weird payoffs. There is a private detective who is trying to find out something. I don't really know what his purpose is in the film, but he is there and he is doing some detecting. Anyways, he is introduced and then forgotten about for a while. Then he starts appearing in scenes for no real reason. There is also a teacher who is introduced, but even less is done with her. In fact, when the P.I. guy gets in over his head, the teacher comes out of nowhere to save him in one of the biggest deus ex machinas I have ever seen.
Not is all bad, though. Stephen Geoffreys, who plays Hoax, is really good in the film. You may remember him from Fright Night where he played Evil Ed. Geoffreys tries to give us a character that we care about, but the script doesn't do him any favors. When he turns evil at the end, he comes off more like one of the cool rather than a demon. In fact, all of the performances are good here.
The make-up effects, done by Kevin Yagher, are really well done. Most of these effects come in towards the end of the film when Hoax is killing everyone, and they are handled very well. The only negative that I can say about the effects is that there isn't one that sticks out.
There is, however, a scene during the climax that sticks out. The P.I. and the teacher chase Hoax into a house that Hoax has frozen over. The look and feel to this scene are really well handled and add a beauty to the film that isn't seen anywhere else. The production design is so beautiful that I wanted more of this scene and less of the rest of the film.
The film was directed by Robert Englund, who is best known for playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street films. This was Englund's first time directing a film and unfortunately, he offers nothing to the film. The film looks like most of the other horror films that were coming out in the 80's and, except for the frozen house scene, the film is fairly bland. Englund would go on to direct one more film, 2008's Killer Pad, a film that at least has a bit more life than 976-Evil.
Summary976-Evil is a film that has some great ideas that would have worked better if there had been another script rewrite. The film is slow at the beginning to allow the audience to get to know the characters, but we don't really care about any of them because of the lazy direction. There is some good atmosphere here, but the film doesn't live up to what it tries to be.
The blu-ray from Sony is pretty nice. The picture and sound quality are excellent and there is an alternate home video version included in the special features that looks and sounds like it did back when it was released on VHS. Sadly, the commentary track isn't that good. The packaging is really nice, imitating the look of a beat up VHS.
Alternate Home Video Version