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976 Evil II - The Astral Factor (DVD)

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Genre: Horror / Suitable for 18 years and over / Director: Jim Wynorski / Actors: Debbie James, René Assa, Patrick O'Bryan, Philip McKeon, Leslie Ryan ... / DVD released 2000-02-21 at Digital Entertainment Ltd / Features of the DVD: PAL

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    1 Review
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      27.07.2009 11:45
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      You'll enjoy this if rubbish horrors are your thing!

      After a string of teenage girls are found murdered, the public feels a great sense of relief when Mr Grubeck, a teacher at a local college, is arrested and charged with their murder, thanks to a janitor who witnessed a particularly gory killing. Robin, who worked part time for Mr Grubeck, struggles to believe he could have anything to do with the killings, but when she accidentally bumps into him at the police station, he touches her and she is momentarily transported to the place of the murders. Then Spike rides into town on his motorbike and becomes convinced that the killings are linked to an astral hotline. But can he prove anything when Mr Grubeck is in jail? Or are Mr Grubeck's powers greater than anyone realises?

      The acting in this film is downright rubbish. Not one of the cast manage to give an even remotely convincing performance. However, this does make the film strangely watchable - it turns it into a comedy that is really entertaining to watch. The funniest of them all is Debbie James as Robin. The poor girl is beautiful (she was apparently a Miss USA finalist), but cannot act for toffee - her lines are badly delivered and she manages to look stupid when she is trying to look intelligent. And her attempts at terror are laughable. Patrick O'Ryan, who plays Spike, is almost as bad. He is clearly the alpha male, but over-exaggerates his performance and sounds terribly fake when delivering his lines. Between them, they do make great entertainment though and I found myself drawn to the screen when they were on, just to see what rubbish they were going to come out with next.

      Rene Assa plays Mr Grubeck in a role that is gloriously evil. He reminds me of Vincent Price - he seems to have modelled himself on Price in House on Haunted Hill, which I thought was ideal for the role. There is no way that his performance can be called good if the film is to be taken seriously, but as a comic role, he is really quite brilliant. The rest of the cast are absolutely horrific, very wooden and unconvincing - I particularly enjoyed a young police officer who clearly had a crush on Robin, but managed to embarrass himself each time he approached her. I cannot completely blame the cast for their performances - part of it does come down to the script, which is one of the weakest I have ever heard - it really does have to be heard to be believed.

      There is a rating of 18 on the film, and there are some fairly gory scenes. The worst comes near the beginning when a young girl is guillotined. However, I have seen much much worse and the special effects are so poor that there is not much hope that anyone except the very young will take them seriously. Mr Grubeck's face, which begins to take on his personality a la Dorien Grey, is probably the best of a bad lot - he actually does look like something is eating away at his facial skin. There is a fair amount of female nudity in the film - the opening shots focus on a beautiful blonde showering, before she puts on a wet tee-shirt and runs around wildly in that and a pair of knickers - not exactly original is it?

      I actually quite liked the plot. It is extremely silly; the fake phone calls to random people were particularly hard to take, especially when there was no reason. However, it trots along at a fair old pace and it is never quite clear what is going to happen next. There is a big supernatural element in it - astral projection is the word used to describe what happens I think. This does get a little out of hand towards the end of the film though and should definitely not be taken too seriously. And there is quite a surprising twist that I didn't see coming - one that improved the film by a notch in my estimation.

      This 1992 film is apparently a sequel to 976 Evil, which was made in 1988 (976 Evil refers to the telephone number 976 666). I haven't, however, seen the first film, nor do I think it is necessary - if there are any references to a previous case, I didn't notice them. However, as part of the film revolves around Night of the Living Dead and It's a Wonderful Life, you will enjoy the connection a lot more if you've seen the original films - director Jim Wynorski clearly had a great amount of fun here.

      There are no special features with the disc.

      There is so much wrong with this film. The film looks as though it was made on a budget; the sound quality is rubbish, the sets are poor and monotonous, the script is weak, no-one can act and the plot is laughable. Yet somehow, it all manages to come together to work well as a light-hearted horror - the sort that is full of cliches, but is still entertaining. It is the sort of film I think would be ideal to watch on a Friday night, especially around Hallowe'en, with a few beers. Just make sure the children are out of the way first. And, much as it pains me to say it, it is more likely to appeal to men than women, because of the female nudity and violence. Recommended for entertainment value.

      The DVD is available from play.com for £5.99. However, I purchased my copy from Poundland, so it is worth looking out for a bargain.

      Classification: 18

      Running time: 93 minutes

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