1988’s 976-EVIL was a ‘love it or hate it’ horror movie. You either think it’s a hidden gem of the era or that it is utter trash. We fell into the former camp finding it to be a seriously flawed horror movie. You can read our full review here. It ‘s one of those movies that neither needed nor deserved a sequel but that didn’t stop it becoming a reality in 1992.
976-EVIL 2: The Astral Factor does the commendable job of being slightly better than the original thanks to a few standout scenes and sequences. A confused plot, a terrible villain and a cliched hero all combine to make this a chore to watch however.
Reprising his role from the first film, Patrick O’Bryan’s Spike now drifts from town to town trying to get over the memory of what took place years before. Not that his moving around stops Satan trying to call him up every so often.
As luck would have it Spike ends up in a town that has a big problem. Mainly a load of murders seemingly committed by the local college professor (Rene Assa). It turns out that the professor is in league with Satan having been promised power if he kills for Hell.
After being caught, the prof smartly uses his one phone call to ask the devil to bail him out and is granted powers that allow him to leave his body and cause havoc on the unsuspecting town. It’s up to one of his pupils, Robin (Debbie James) and Spike to put a stop to his nefarious plans!
One of the things that become fairly apparent about this sequel is that it doesn’t actually feel like a sequel. Instead its story and characters feel like a separate movie that then had the small 976-EVIL stuff jammed in and it barely fits.
Many of the rules set up in the first are completely abandoned here in favour of silly set-piece sequences designed to show off Hell’s power. It just leaves you scratching your head though as if Hell & Satan can do this, why even bother using the phone line? It’s just another super-natural slasher in the mould of A Nightmare on Elm Street but much worse.
That’s almost a minor complaint though compared to the absolute horror show that is the acting. This is a rough ride with Debbie James taking the gold for cringe-worthy delivery and awkward emotions.
It’s not all bad though! Where 976-EVIL 2 does excel is with some of its effects! The professor’s astral powers allow him to have some fun and he doesn’t disappoint. One particular sequence sees a body explode like a water-balloon when hit by a truck! It’s an awesome effect and where the movie really steps its horror game up.
However, what everyone who sees this movie remembers is the Night of the Living Dead/It’s a Wonderful Life mashup. A truly inventive and memorable sequence. Here the professor drags a channel-flipping teen into her favourite movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. What was on the other channel though? Night of Living Dead! That lovely, sweet ending of the Christmas favourite takes a very dark turn and it’s done so well, you really wouldn’t know it wasn’t a part of the original classic.
That alone makes it worth watching but once the bloody snow has settled you won’t remember much else about 976-EVIL 2.
976-EVIL 2: The Astral Factor