976-Evil II

976-Evil II

**

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

There's something to be said for cheap horror movies that are 100% honest about their agenda. As such, 976-Evil II (subtitled The Astral Factor) has considerable appeal. Less than five minutes in we get a topless blonde in the shower. Just three minutes later she's running screaming round the corridors. There are creepy shadows, billowing smoke, a cheerfully unsubtle penetration-style death scene. Cut to a desert road and a lone biker cruising into a one-Skoda town. This is a film that bears its clichés with pride and has fun with them. Which is important, because it doesn't have a whole lot of anything else.

The biker in question is Spike (Patrick O'Bryan); his off-the-shelf leathers and unadorned vehicle are as bland as his name but can hardly compete with the blandess of his character. Perhaps it's this curious lack of personality that has saved him from becoming another victim of the mysterious voice on the other end of the phone line - 976-Evil - which seems to be ensnaring people into an unspecified form of Satanism. People like Mr Grubeck (René Assa), a teacher who has been killing off his teenage students. The police are onto the killer, but with evil on his side, can mere imprisonment put an end to his deadly deeds?

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Assa is great in the role of Grubeck, clearly enjoying himself and making for entertaining viewing despite the clunky script and overall shoddiness of the production. His supposedly disgusting make-up isn't up to much by the standards of similar films, but his energetic gurning makes up for this. It's accompanied by poltergeist-style dramatics which comprise most of the film's action sequences. These are particularly badly filmed and you can have fun looking out for the poorly hidden props guys.

As the film's heroine, former Miss USA finalist Debbie James is unconvincingly vulnerable (I'd put money on her against Assa in a fight) and squeezes out her dialogue as if she were reluctantly reciting from a play in a high school English class, but as there's no pretence that she can act this just adds to the film's charm. A lot of shots just focus on her arse, Tomb Raider style. Although this was made in 1992 she has a good line in ridiculous Eighties clothes, and other female characters seem to be competing for who can have the most ludicrously accoutred shoulders. This, along with the stagy dramatics of the telephone scenes, gives the film almost a gialloesque character in places.

If you want to watch horror, 976-Evil is far from first rate. There's a cute zombie sequence when things briefly go all Terrorvision, but the gore isn't all that and there are next to no genuine chills. If you enjoy films like this as comedy, however, it's a great choice, right down to the cheesy Tron-style graphics at the end. Oh, and the final twist is one more movies ought to think about, illustrating the sense of humour that ultimately determines the success or failure of material this cheerfully cheap.

Reviewed on: 09 Jan 2011
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A teacher imprisoned for murder uses astral projection to kill off his enemies and stalk his former assistant.
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Director: Jim Wynorski

Writer: Erik Anjou, Rick Glassman

Starring: Debbie James, René Assa, Patrick O'Bryan

Year: 1992

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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