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976-Evil (Blu-ray Review)

Coming out of nowhere and as a complete welcome surprise of Sony announcing the release of vintage 80s horror classic, 976-Evil.  Its super notable as the film marks the directorial debut of fright icon and Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund. The movie dialed itself up a sequel a couple of years later (Your move now, Vestron!) and Englund would only direct one more feature 20 years later, though he did direct two episode of the Freddy’s Nightmares television show. This nice little release from Sony will be available and ready to kick of your October Halloween horror movie marathons on October 3rd. Pre-order this little bit of fun below, following the review to ensure yourself a copy come new release day. 

Film 

High school underdog Hoax Wilmoth fills up the idle hours in his seedy little hometown fending off the local leather-jacketed thugs, avoiding his overbearing mother and dreaming of a date with trailer park temptress Suzie. But, his quietly desperate life takes a terrifying turn when his cousin introduces him to an unusual new hobby – phoning in for his Horrorscope. Hoax is hooked-up with a compellingly hideous demonic force that slowly begins to overtake his entire life and now there’s more than just a phone bill to pay for anyone who ever dared cross “the neighborhood nerd”.

Robert Englund shows that he didn’t only star in horror films in the 1980s, he had a firm grasp on what really made them tick and how to do the ticking. 976-Evil isn’t a great movie, and is a far more effective movie for its time, but it finds itself steeped rich in some great sets, make-up and spooks for its era. There were “masters” of horror or different directors that just did horror that Englund seems to show he can fit in with them with a lot of ease. It doesn’t feel, play or look like a first film. Unfortunately, Englund wouldn’t step behind the camera again for a feature for another 20 years after this.

One thing I like about the movie is his latching on the the dirty/scummy/gross big city atmosphere and environment that was a thing during this time. Englund’s rendition of it almost creates and elseworld. Its very akin to Danny Steinmann’s Linda Blair b-movie masterpiece Savage Streets. Hell, they could probably share universes or this would be the next town over. There’s an overall sense of danger and discomfort with every frame thanks to the lighting and such.

The film is a bit goofy and that’s due some dating, intentional cheese and Stephen Geoffreys. Geoffreys is most known for Fright Night and this is his follow up. He brings a weird energy that just has a goofy nature to it. Evil Ed this isn’t, its its own kind of crazy. Also, this is based on one of those old call lines that are pretty much defunct in today’s climate. However, back when this was made, they were totally regular. And horror loves to take something out of normal every day life and turn it on you. Its still doing it (Friend Request just came out last weekend for Pete’s sake.). Jaws made it not safe to go back in the water again, 976-Evil wanted to make you think twice before calling a scary story or sex hotline again. Did it succeed? I’m not sure, but I remember people talking and recommending this movie quite a bit in the late 80s/early 90s.

976-Evil is almost a perfect little storm of 1980s horror cinema. Its not really scary, but its got some fun make-up and effects, its directed by one its most iconic actors, stars Evil Ed and bases everything off of a sort of fad that could build up people’s fears back in the day. Englund also manages to create a really cool environment in the film to ramp up the horror with some scummy alley, big city streets and all. Overall, this was a fun one to revisit and it felt brand new seeing it (With some added appreciation) on this Blu-ray after only seeing it on VHS and some crummy transfers onto DVD.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: While its not going to be awarded the greatest transfer ever, 976-Evil was an eye opener for me. I have only experienced the film on VHS and the DVD for this was pretty crappy. This now looks way more crisp and detailed coming in a little soft. Medium and close up shots showcase some really nice details. Overall, its about what you get with the top line boutique label’s picture quality.

Depth: For what we have here, this is pretty decent. Good separation from foreground/character and the background. Camera movements look much nicer. Background image detail is pretty good. Movements are cinematic and blurring/jittering is to a bare minimum.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and can get a little consuming. Some detail does get hidden within some dark sequences, but some things do protrude through impressively. No crushing was witnessed on the viewing for the this review.

Color Reproduction: Colors come with a nice, bold and natural appeal. Yellows, reds and blues are nice and varied with their good strength. Neon lights and exposed bulbs pop pretty good without bleeding or anything.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Close ups provide the best facial detail with dried blood, wrinkles, blemishes and stubble. Medium and further prove to be a little too smooth for fine details.

Noise/Artifacts: Looks to be a very light layer of grain.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Stereo DTS-HD MA, French Mono DTS-HD MA, German Mono DTS-HD MA, Spanish Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Chinese Traditional, French, German, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish

Dynamics: 976-Evil has a very nice 5.1 mix, that’s actually pretty impressive. You may be tempted to go genuine with the stereo track, but give the 5.1 a chance. Its brings this thing to live a little bit more and give it a fresh, loose and layered feel. One thing I also noticed that is really cool, is that all the foreign mono tracks come in the lossless format as well.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer hits in a lighter fashion on this mix and is mainly in musical stings, magical moments and some loud crashing moments.

Surround Sound Presentation: Impressively, there are some good unique things happening in the rear speakers, they are not forgotten. Sound travels not just back and forth in the front speakers, but there are some cool moments where something like a scream passes right through you.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clear and clean.

Extras 

976-Evil comes with an UltraViolet digital copy.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Robert Englund and Nancy Booth England

Alternate Home Video Version (SD, 1:44:39) – Replicates the VHS watching experience, but take note that the runtime is also 12 minutes longer than the HD one on here. Its got a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but isn’t shit vision, this is premium VHS quality here. The tape was JUST opened, lol.

Summary 

976-Evil is a fun, goofy little vintage 1980s horror film that also does some things very well at times. This Blu-ray, while not loaded with extras is put together quite nicely. The commentary is 2 hours with the film’s director and a horror legend. You also get the super cool addition of the VHS version. Packaging is a nice touch too, as its slip cover is made to look like a worn VHS case. I’m hoping this is the start of some really groovy horror offerings from Sony. Its taken longer than expected, but with Vestron Video popping up last year and now Sony putting this release out, big studios are finally taking notice of the excitement and success Scream Factory and Arrow Video (And others, too) are having with these vintage horror films. Now it’d be nice if Warner and Paramount could jump on board with this as well. Pick this one up, collectors!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “976-Evil (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Dave

    There’s a better chance of pigs flying than Paramount getting off their a$$ and releasing any of their cult titles. Warner is a maybe due to their Warner Archive line.