A movie about a demonic answering machine directed by Freddy Krueger(!?); sign me up twice. Over this Halloween holi-dazed weekend I decided to dust off my old 976-EVIL VHS tape and give it a spin, and I am glad I did. The movie itself focuses on an odd pair of cousins (Spike and Hoax) who live under the rule of a staunch religious fundamentalist aunt who is obsessed with keeping her couch clean. Spike is the hard knock cool motorcycle riding greaser dude, Hoax is the helpless nerd who looks up to him. Spike discovers a strange card for a “Horrorscope” service in a booby magazine, and decides to start calling it for daily kicks. The strange, supernatural phone service seems to have insider knowledge in Spike’s life which makes him uncomfortable with calling the number so he tries to throw the card with the number away, however his nerdy never-do-well cousin picks up the card and discovers the phone number is the answer to all his problems. Dark rituals always get the job done. Soon Hoax gets possessed by a demon, he starts ripping the hearts out of his foes, cracks a ton of puns, grows some facial hair , soils the couch, and is generally being an evil jerk, which I thought was a nice change in pace from perpetual victim.
I had a lot of fun dialing into 976-EVIL. Freddy Krueger knows how to film sleazy, dirty, dingy piss soaked locals. The entire film has a miasma of trashy delight that I found quite atmospheric, like a horror yarn told in a neon lit back alley. I used to live on the wrong side of the tracks, the “bad” side of town and the locals picked in the movie reminded me of those streets. You can almost waft the scent of day old beer and broken dreams. I think maybe they were going for the 80’s punk trash culture look, which works for the movie.
The main set of bullies that antagonize and torture Hoax spend their nights playing strip poker behind a movie theatre that constantly spins horror movies. It’s kind of an odd choice considering there is only one girl in the group, but there are a lot of little odd accoutrements to the film that make revisiting it interesting; like the pneumatic air messaging system the cousins use to communicate between their separate houses (Spike kind of lives in the shed). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bank teller pneumatic air system used as a set piece in a movie, especially one that dangles over the pits of hell, but here we are.
There is also a scene that has fish falling from a sky during a rain storm; seemingly legitimizing Hoax’s crazy religious mother’s claims that God regularly speaks to her. She claims the falling fish are a sign from God that something disastrous is going to happen to Spike if she doesn’t intervene in his ungodly ways. The movie kind of sides with her on this point; later Spike does find himself in trouble with the Horrorscope call number. It brings a reporter into the mix of the story but his thread doesn’t exactly go anywhere, he stumbles across the origins of the Horrorscope number, figures out there is some supernatural mumbo jumbo behind it, then finds himself a target of the demon possessed Hoax.
Hoax is a total Marty-a-like from Slaughter High. He’s the kind of nerdy momma’s boy that makes other nerds want to bully him. He is emotionally stunted, has no friends (hey that sounds familiar), and basically spends his time trying to impress Spike, who finds Hoax mildly amusing but for the most part treats him like a nuisance. It’s clear that Spike is the intended protagonist of the story but I thought he came off as kind of a dick. He steps in to protect Hoax from bullies during one scene, but seems extremely reluctance to do so; maybe it was only to maintain his greaser veneer. The rest of the film he seems to want to avoid Hoax like the plague, getting drunk with the “strip poker” bullies that tormented him earlier, and basically just not giving a shit about anybody but himself.
So I was kind of rooting for Hoax the entire movie. His mother is horrendous to him, his “best fiend” is a greaser dickhead, and he gets beaten regularly by the local bullies. He deserved his revenge; so when the “Horrorscope” begins to take him over with dark magic, transforming him into a furry demon elf guy, I was totally on his side. Finally Hoax gets his day. The movie clearly paints him as the big baddie, but when he begins ripping hearts out of people’s chests and spewing one liners I couldn’t help but crack a deviant smile.
In the end Hoax gets a little too over zealous with his new found powers and thirst for revenge against, well, everyone, so Spike steps in to finish him off by tossing him into a pit of Hell; the poor dweeb. I’m not clear why Spike suddenly felt compelled to stop Hoax from hurting more people, especially people he didn’t seem to give a squirt about earlier. I guess he felt responsible for introducing Hoax to the Horrorscope call line, but I think Hoax kind of found that himself by snooping through Spike’s stuff absolving him of any guilt. I really wish Spike ended up in the pit and Hoax ended the movie victorious in his revenge, especially after the scene where he throws Hoax on the floor of a boy’s locker room and mock spits at him. What a knob.