The Halloween Top 13: The Devil Made Me Do It #5 - 976-EVIL (1988)
Spike (Patrick O'Bryan) is a bad boy. You can tell by his slicked back hair, brown leather bomber jacket, and chromed out '48 Harley. He gets the girls and he fights his fights. Which makes him the exact opposite of his cousin Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys), an introverted nerd who constantly gets picked on. They both live with Hoax's ultra religious mother (Sandy Dennis), and when the sky rains fish one evening, she takes it as a sign from God. Its origin probably has more to do with the eerily prophetic "Horrorscopes" he's been listening to by dialing 666-976-EVIL. Spike loses interest in the phone line, but when Hoax tries it out, he soon discovers its demonic power. Using it to get revenge on his enemies, Hoax is soon totally consumed by The Devil, and it's up to Spike to defeat the cousin he used to have to defend.
Evilspeak. In both cases, the put-upon nerd turns to Satan to change his life, bu unlike Stanley Coopersmith's revenge fantasy, Hoax's story actually has some depth. Every time I watch 976-Evil, it's one of the things that surprises me most. (The other is Robert Picardo as the coked up Mark Dark.) Screenwriters Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Man on Fire, Green Zone) and Rhet Topham (Trick or Treat) took a risk incorporating a cultural trend into a horror movie. Ask feardotcom if you don't believe me. However. much like Trick of Treat did with metal, 976-EVIL cleverly incorporated its conceit by building a quality, original horror film around it. There is also a fair amount of humor throughout, but it's judiciously applied. Sandy Dennis (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) is the only actor who could be accused of playing too broadly, but her holy roller really needed to be a larger than life presence. The only other place the humor stumbles is in the last third of the film which gets a bit too reminiscent of Freddy Kruger's Henny Youngman period.
Christine Hadden of Fascination with Fear. Check out her picks down below the trailer.
There's a billion great things I could say about my Internet cousin Christine Hadden, but I'll narrow it down to just a couple. She's always insightful filling Fascination with Fear with unmissable articles. She's likes Psycho more than any person should, just like I do. And finally, she's made a hell of a great list to share with you folks.
1) Angel Heart - 1987 - My absolute favorite film with the devil in it. Mickey Rourke? Yes please! I love all that voodoo hoopla, and DeNiro was kind of a surprise as Mr. Louis Cyphre. Get it?
2) The Exorcist - 1973 - Everybody's favorite devil film is one of mine too. It still stands the test of time and for me, could never be duplicated!
3) Rosemary's Baby - 1968 - As old as me, and though stuck in its time period it is still such an effective film with great performances.
4) The House of the Devil - 2009 - Though made just a few years ago it really holds an 80's feel to it. I'm not totally sold on this one, but the atmosphere more than makes up for some of the plot faults.
5) The Ninth Gate - 1999 - Johnny Depp is my homeboy, so if I can get him and Frank Langella in the same movie, there's no way I'm not loving it. And two Polanski films on the same list? How the hell did that happen?
6) Hellraiser - A puzzle box opens the doors to a world rife with horrifying demons. Nasty shit. What could be better than that?
7) The Evil Dead - 1981 - My love for this film and its sequel know no bounds. The demonic chanting from the woods "Join Us!" gets me every time, as does the recording of the chants to bring Kandarian demons forth from beyond. Awesome.
8) (Dario Argento's) Demons - 1985 - Argento and (Lamberto) Bava team up to give us a theater full of demons. Totally over the top, exactly what 80's films should be.
9) The Sentinel - 1977 - The Catholic Church owns a house that is the gateway to hell and has to appoint someone to keep the demons at bay. Yeah, that sounds reasonable. It's a great film that is underrated and deserves to be seen.
10) The Omen - 1976 - Because most kids are demons to me anyway, a film with a five year old who is the son of the devil himself pretty much scared the shit out of me.