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Film / 976-EVIL

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When you dial, your phone bill will be the least of your worries.

"Out of the darkness and into light, comes your horrorscope on this dark and stormy night."
976-EVIL's greeting message

976-EVIL is a 1988 horror film directed by Robert Englund.

Spike (the bad boy) and Hoax (the introverted nerd) are cousins who live with Hoax’s overly religious mother. They stumble across a mysterious premium-line phone number, 976-EVIL, which appears at first to be just a fun novelty hotline that offers creepy fortunes to those who call, but they soon discover that it’s a direct line to hell—literally. Spike loses interest, but Hoax uses the powers the number gives him to exact revenge against everyone who has wronged him, inadvertently allowing his soul to be slowly taken over by Satan. Spike must race to stem the tide of destruction Hoax is perpetrating, hoping like hell that he can save his cousin’s soul.

Along with A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, the first screenwriting credit of Brian Helgeland (who helped Trick or Treat writer Rhet Topham develop his story; and while 976-EVIL was finished first, to the point Englund recommended him for the next Freddy Krueger script, The Dream Master got to theaters before), who would win an Academy Award with L.A. Confidential.

It was followed by a sequel, 976-EVIL 2: The Astral Factor.

Tropes associated with 976-EVIL:

  • 900 Number: The titular 976-EVIL.
  • Asshole Victim: Marcus, and the other punks who bullied Hoax throughout the movie.
  • And Show It to You: Possessed Hoax kills two bullies offscreen, and returns to the poker game they were part of with their still-beating hearts in his hands.
    Hoax: Would it be possible to enter the game with a pair of hearts?
  • Big Bad: Mark Dark, the demonic being behind the number.
  • Big "NO!": This is Hoax's reaction when his supernatural spider-prank against Suzie ends up killing her.
  • The Corruption: The 976-EVIL phone number works this way, initially giving Hoax a means of revenge against his tormentors, but the more he uses it, the more outwardly monstrous he becomes.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Hoax's deeply religious mother keeps dozens of cats around the house. After Hoax kills her under the evil phone line's influence, they feast on her corpse.
  • Dead Man's Hand: Marcus gets a pair of aces and eights in a poker game before he ends up being killed by possessed Hoax, but not before getting his hand cut off.
    Hoax: That's a dead man's hand.
  • Downer Ending: Hoax is completely possessed by the evil force, and slaughters the majority of the named characters. His cousin is forced to throw him into Hell to stop Armageddon. Meanwhile, the man behind the phone line answers another call, preparing for more corruption...
  • The End... Or Is It?: Hoax is thrown into Hell, seemingly taking the force behind the phone line with him. Then the true mastermind is seen answering another call...
  • Evil Phone: Spike (and others who declined the phone line's offerings of power) get evil calls that mock and try to kill them.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Hoax's voice becomes deeper as he gives in more and more to the 976-EVIL's influence.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Hoax uses the powers granted by the phone line to get back at everyone who's wronged him. He then becomes Drunk On The Darkside and goes on a general killing spree.
  • Haunted Technology: When Spike won't comply to the evil phone line's demands, an unmanned car starts up and tries to run him over.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: After Hoax becomes fully possessed, Spike reminds his cousin about their youth to help him fight it. It only partially works, as it gives Hoax just enough time to sacrifice himself.
  • Man on Fire: When the man in the opening finally caves in and answers a demonically ringing phone, he is set on fire and the phone booth that he's in exlplodes.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The evil phone number tries to persuade Spike to steal a pair of fingerless gloves, but he proves to be a better person than that. Because of that, supernatural forces try to have him killed.
  • Number of the Beast: To get their "horrorscope", the person calling the eponymous phone line must punch in the number 666.
  • Poor Man's Porn: Early in the film, Hoax can be seen reading from a National Geographic magazine for this use, but his religious mother catches him red-handed.
  • Reality Warper: Hoax's demonic powers eventually include the ability to warp the environment, as he turns his own house into an arctic wasteland and opens a portal to Hell in the yard.
  • Sinister Shades: When Hoax starts to embrace being possessed, he also starts wearing rounded sunglasses.
  • Title by Number: By phone number, to be exact.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Or in this case, what happened to the skank? We never see the fate of Airhead's girlfriend after he is impaled on the neon pitchfork. Last we saw her, she was screaming in terror a few feet away from Hoax. Given how evil Hoax was, we can assume she perished soon after.