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Blu-ray Review: 976-EVIL -“Great cinematography and a genuinely icky feel”

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976-EVIL is released on Blu-ray in the UK on the 19th of October. Directed by Freddy Krueger himself – Robert Englund – the film stars Stephen Geoffreys (Evil Ed in Fright Night), Patrick O’Bryan (No Holds Barred) and Lezlie Deane (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare).

Hex (Geoffreys) is a sweater vest-wearing momma’s boy whose cousin is a badass motorcycle riding punk called Spike (O’Bryan). For kicks, Spike starts calling a creepy “Horrorscope” phone line that gives what seems to be pre-recorded advice and predictions but stops when he doesn’t follow the voice’s instructions one night and is nearly killed. 

Wanting to emulate his hero, Hex starts calling the number but gets hooked quickly when the disembodied voice’s advice gives him the confidence to stand up to his mum and some greasy thugs, as well as crack onto the object of his affections: Suzie (Deane).

But Hex starts changing in other ways too, and not for the better. As he begins to grow claws and develop pointed ears, as well as horrific crackly skin and red-ringed eyes, it becomes clear that something devilish has gotten to him through the phoneline and Spike must now try and stop Hex

976-EVIL has excellent effects and plenty of dirty production value, and Stephen Geoffreys’ rapidly-deteriorating Hex is an unforgettable character and performance. The whole film has great cinematography and a genuinely icky feel – as if every character has slept in their costume and not had a shower. The narrative can get a bit messy and there are under-explored areas and loose threads but it is an always fun and unpredictable watch.

Englund’s direction is really good too. He definitely had a visual style that feels influenced by the Nightmare films but is still his own. He is unhurried, focusses on small disquieting moments and elements and gives his actors’ performances plenty of space. It’s a genuine shame that his career behind the camera didn’t really take off as he has an interesting approach and a unique voice only a horror icon turned director could have.

The film has DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 audio options and we screened it with the surround. It’s a good mix with no audible faults, a nice balance in levels between the dialogue and music and effects and there’s a decent amount of activity in the LFE and surrounds. In terms of picture quality, we noticed no faults either. It’s a nice natural looking encode that has 

There’s an audio commentary with director Robert Englund and his wife, set decorator Nancy Booth Englund, too and Englund explains that they actually met on this movie, which is very sweet. Englund is a blast throughout and often falls into “Freddy voice” as well as striking a great balance between entertaining backstory and funny reactions to the onscreen action. This is definitely one of the better commentaries I’ve listened to recently and is just like you’re hanging out with Freddy watching his movie.

Another version of the film is on the disc as well, 976-EVIL: home video version, which is only in SD and is the extended version of the film from its home video release on VHS. It runs just under fourteen minutes longer than the standard cut but is mostly superfluous stuff that looks to have been trimmed to tighten things up. The really cool thing about it though is it is just like watching the movie on video – definitely a very fun way to go with any repeat viewings.

The rest of the bonus material is three new interviews with the film’s producer Lisa M. Hansen, the special make-up effects artist Howard Berger and the special effects technician Kevin Yagher. Lis Hansen seems awesome and has a big love for horror. She also has an extremely interesting backstory and lots of stories about the cast too – like Hoax and Suzie being hot for each other in real life and advised to hold it in for the good of their chemistry and performances.

Yagher, we learn, was in charge of the film’s excellent effects thanks to a close relationship with Englund after hundreds of hours applying his Freddy make-up. When offered 976-EVIL though he was already just starting to build effects and dolls for Child’s Play, so made everything but wasn’t on set every day because of the Chucky juggling, trusting Kurtzman and Berger of now-legendary KNB effects to do applications and the day-to-day. Berger’s interview repeats a lot of this stuff, but he also has lots to say about Englund’s directing style and his approach to working with actors which is really interesting.

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976-EVIL is released on Blu-ray in the UK on the 19th of October.

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