A lot of people have this misguided notion that the 1980s ended when the calendar flipped over to 1990. However, as 976-EVIL 2 (a.k.a. 976-EVIL 2: The Astral Factor) constantly points out, the spirit of the 1980s burned bright well into the '90s. The idea that the cultural temperament of a particular era changes overnight is ridiculous. Maybe in a 100 years these differences will seem unimportant. But to those of us who lived through these linear chunks of time, the differences are crucial to understanding who we are and where we stand in the world. I mean, for many of us, the instant women stopped using hairspray was a watershed moment. Yet, hairspray usage amongst women did not cease come January 1, 1990, and the wonderfully diminutive Debbie James in this Jim Wynorski-directed sequel to a movie that wasn't that great to begin with is proof of this. Even though her so-called "big hair" is mostly realized by sporting crispy bangs and employing scrunchies in a manner that help facilitate the illusion of follicle aggrandizement, there's still enough product in her hair to start a small brush fire.
You could say Debbie's hair is stuck in the '80s. But, if you think about it, she's just continuing to ride the style waves that were laid by her bimbo fore-mothers in the early days of the fingerless glove decade. It's true, the style wave eventually petered out. That being said, some people continued to ride this wave well into '90s.
Even so, big hair was finally killed the first time a woman entered a hair salon and asked for "The Rachel," the bouncy, square layered hairstyle Jennifer Aniston wore in the first couple of seasons of Friends. I hope you're happy, Jennifer Aniston, or, I should say, Jennifer Aniston's hairdresser, you murdered the 1980s. Granted, the decade, in terms of being a cultural force, was already on its last legs, but you put the final nail in the coffin.
Wow, judging by what I've typed so far, you wouldn't know this was a review for 976-EVIL 2. But trust me, it totally is.
In a surprise twist, I'm not going on and on about Debbie's hair because the movie is lacking in the not being lame department. Get this, the film is actually pretty good. No, no, no, here me out. Sure, the film is a sequel to the Robert Englund-directed horror flick about about a killer psychic hotline (one that prompts you to dial '666'), but I thought part two was kinda clever in places.
Am I crazy, or does Karen Mayo-Chandler's t-shirt get more skimpy as the opening scene progresses? Anyway, after taking a swim, college co-ed, Laurie Glazer (Karen Mayo-Chandler, Stripped to Kill II: Live Girls), is creeped out by weird noises while showering. Since investigating "weird noises" in a skimpy t-shirt and a towel is a tad awkward, Laurie slips on a pair of white panties.
No ordinary pair of white panties, mind you, Laurie's white panties are lacy in the back and smooth as satin in the front.
Once the white panties are pulled up as far as they will go, Mr. Grubeck (René Assa) decides to reveal himself to Laurie as the one responsible for making the weird noises. As expected, Laurie is freaked out by Mr. Grubeck's sudden appearance, and like any sane person, makes a run for it.
Finding nothing but locked doors during her initial scamper, Laurie stumbles onto the set of Faust in the school's auditorium. At first, I wanted to say that Mr. Grubeck kills Laurie using one of them pointy cave thingies. But I soon discovered that they're actually called stalagmites. Isn't that strange? Nonetheless, as opening scenes go, the one that opens 976-EVIL 2 is not bad.
The opening credits and post-opening credits scene isn't too bad either, as it features the always amazing music of Chuck Cirino (Chopping Mall) and a brief appearance by Sigal Diamant, who plays the world's cutest biker bar bartender.
Arriving at said biker bar, the Mad Dog Inn, Spike (Patrick O'Bryan), who you might remember from the first film (he got to feel up Lezlie Deane's stocking encased legs), takes a seat at bar and orders a beer and some fries. After watching a news report on the bar's television detailing the gruesome events that befell Laurie in Slate River, the bar's pay phone starts to ring in that rather ominous fashion they tend to do in these movies.
Since no-one else can apparently hear the phone (the cute biker bar bartender says, "What phone?", in response to his query, "Isn't anyone gonna answer that phone?"), Spike reluctantly answers it. And wouldn't you know it, the first thing he hears is a sinister voice say: "Out of the darkness and into the light..." That's right, Spike may have survived the events from the first film, but he's still tormented by that damned psychic hotline.
Meanwhile, in Slate River, a shapely blonde with a sweet ass is about to discover her college professor is a deranged serial killer. Heading down to police headquarters to visit her police shrink father, Robin Jamison (Debbie James) bumps into–you guessed it–Mr. Grubeck, who was arrested thanks to a tip from a witness; Buck Flower was in the auditorium when Laurie Glazer was killed with a stalagmite.
Wearing a sleeveless doily-esque top with a pair of jean shorts covered in doily-esque flourishes, Robin is too adorable for words.
When Robin bumps into Mr. Grubeck, he must have imparted psychic powers onto her, as she can now see into the future.
The last thing you want to do is give Mr. Grubeck access to a telephone, but that's exactly what the Slate River cops end up doing. Calling "976-EVIL" without fail, Mr. Grubeck is granted the power to astral project. Meaning, he can continue murdering people, yet stay in his jail cell at the same time.
Did anyone else get a mild rash on their taint when Spike says to Robin that the fries at Cadillac Jacks (a cool local diner) are "not as tasty as the company"? Just me, eh? At any rate, Spike and Robin (who is wearing a pink top with black spandex exercise tights (with colourful flourishes down the side), team up to fight evil... or some bullshit like that.
Of course, Robin still needs a little more convincing, as she has her doubts that a locked up Mr. Grubeck is killing people thanks to a demonic psychic hotline.
What is it with Robin and her obsession with doily-based clothing? The top she wears while wandering around campus looks like something an old lady might cover her dinning room table with when not in use.
Not accustomed to seeing her fully clothed, Monique Gabrielle (Evil Toons) shows up as Susan Lawlor, the buttoned up prosecutor in charge of bringing charges against Mr. Grubeck. She's only in two scenes, but the sight of her in her lawyerin' clothes and the car scene should satisfy fans of the bosomy actress. The latter scene features several cutaways of her nylon ensnared feet struggling to press on the breaks and some impressive stunk work (I think).
An equally fully clothed Brigitte Nielsen (Chained Heat II) also makes an appearance as the gothy owner of Lucifer's, an occult bookstore. However, unlike Monique Gabrielle, Brigitte's part is merely a cameo... so, don't get too excited.
In terms of rating the many looks Robin sports in this film, my favourite has to be the pink belly-revealing top/jeans combination she wears throughout the film's final third (white belt, ftw).
You would think a film that has everything I just mentioned would eventually run out of steam. Think again, as 976-EVIL 2 saves the best for last. Exhausted after a long day of battling the forces of darkness, Robin decides to unwind by watching a movie with her pal Paula (Leslie Ryan). Unfortunately, Paula wants to watch Night of the Living Dead; Robin would prefer if they watched It's a Wonderful Life.
After flipping back and forth between the two films for a few minutes, Robin finally gives up and goes to the kitchen to get popcorn. Sitting on the couch in her 90s-friendly attire (unlike Robin, Paula's style oozes the 1990s), Paula is suddenly zapped into the television and finds herself on the set of It's a Wonderful Life during the "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings" scene.
The way Jim Wynorski and his team managed to make it appear as if Paula was in It's a Wonderful Life was shockingly adept. Seriously, it was seamless. To make things even more awesome, the scene is combined with Night of the Living Dead.
It's true, both films were, at the time at least, public domain, so it made sense for budget conscience filmmakers to use them in this manner. But still, the way the effect was executed was first-rate. It's too bad the entire film couldn't have been at this level of craftsmanship.