The case says 1988 and I have seen the UK release dated listed as late 1988, but several sources say the US theatrical release was March, 1989.
Directed by Robert Englund (yes, that Robert Englund)
I remember seeing ads for this when it came out, but I never saw it and didn’t know anyone who had seen it either. I picked it up at Wal-mart’s $5 bin around Halloween 2008, watched it once and then there it sat until I viewed it for this review.
Who’s in this?
Stephen Geoffreys was three years removed from played Evil Ed in Fright Night. This time around he’s the star of the film as Hoax who is socially awkward teen who is ruled over by his God fearing momma as well as being bullied at school.
Patrick O’Bryan as Spike cousin of Hoax and he lives above their garage. He has a motorcycle, a short ponytail and a girlfriend so he must be cool. On the downside he appears to be 26 and is still in high school.
Sandy Dennis plays Hoax’s mom. She loves God and cats plus she rules over her a son with an iron fist. She won an Oscar and a pair of Tony awards, but by this time she wasn’t getting the best of roles offered to her. She died from ovarian cancer just a few years after this film.
Jim Metzler as Marty a policeman who kind of wanders into the story and frequents cheap diners while doing very little else until the last ten minutes of the film. Metzler has been in a ton of stuff and is still acting regularly today.
Leslie Dean as Suzie. She’s Spike’s girlfriend and she loves pizza and hates spiders.
J.J. Cohen as Marcus. You may know him as Skinhead one of Biff’s gang members in all three Back to the future movies
Robert Picardo (ST Voyager, Stargate shows, The Howling and a crapload of other stuff) playing what else? A freak as Mark Dark who runs the company that controls the phone line for 976-Evil. A small role but this is Robert Picardo so of course he steals the scene he’s in.
The don’t blink or you’ll miss him role of this film is veteran comedy character actor Paul Wilson (Cheers, Macolm in the middle and like 100 other things) who briefly appears as a teacher.
Another small role, but not a small actor is Greg Collins as Mr. Selby. A former football player Collins began acting in the mid-80 and is still going strong with well over a hundred credits. He frequently has small roles as a policeman, someone in the military or a gym teacher. You have no doubt seen him in a bunch of stuff.
Just don’t say some crap about opening with a pair of hearts.
What’s this thing about?
This would be the section where I describe the plot. However IN this film the plot is very loose maybe like a baseball with seams that are barely holding on as the movie goes on those seams began to rip and the plot begins to fall apart. Instead we get random skits and various time wasters tossed in to try to keep you going until they end. Ot maybe the writers only came up with a beginning and an end and figured that the oddball cast could carry the middle enough to keep it going. Anyways much like the writers (yes, I know that future Academy award winning writer Brian Helgeland co-wrote this script) of this film I am skipping to the end too soon. Okaylet’s see what’s going in this film- a guy catches on fire for grabbing a pay phone and oh we know that evil is coming because of the burning guy and EVIL is in the title wahahahaha. Hoax is a real mess who can’t get anywhere and his dominating overly religious mom makes matters even worse. Hoax idolizes his way cool cousin Spike (so no one is named Mike or Dave in this movie?). Spike needs money to get his bike back because he lost it Marcus in a card game. Poof Spike gets a card for a hotline called Horrorscope-get it H-O-R-R-O-R, whoa the writers must have been high fiving each other for an hour after thinking up that little ditty. Oh and the phone numer is 976-EVIL. So Spike calls and gets some hammy semi-rhyming response and some lead that he’ll get money. Wouldn’t you know it he does get some moolah. Wow but then again if the phone line didn’t work the movie could have ended here which may not have been a bad thing. Hoax gets bullied by Marcus and his gang and when Spike saves him once he thinks they are buddies but no freaking way because Spike is too cool for that. Since Spike has an A list nickname and Hoax is like a fake, fraud name and probably down around the D grade nickname level. Somewhere around here trenchcoat wearing Marty blows into town and begins poking around about odd stuff happening and this leads him to Spike. He finds out that Spike used the 976-Evil hotline and this lead to strange things a happening. Marty goes straight to the source and visits the business that runs this hotline and lots of others. Screwball owner Mark Dark says his company did run that line but they have since shut it off because it wasn’t make enough money. Oh, Lordy so now we must assume that a demon or spirit from beyond has taken over a hotline whoa that’s heavy, man. Next thing you know someone is going to break out a pentragram -oh, wooly bully there goes Hoax making a big old pentagram on the floor of his room. Then he takes his off shirt, sits right in the middle of that evil sign and conjurs up some spiders to scare Suzie. Hold on, this power is too much for just scaring so those spiders do her in, yikeees. Spike learns that Hoax is using the spooky hotline and eventually he tells Marty who figures on doing something in between meal stops at greasy spoons. Hoax is caught up in the power now. First he slashes one of the guys in Marcus’s gang with some big rippy claws he just grew. That night he gets all bushy like a reject from that island with that Dr. Moreau feller and then he rips the heart of two of the gang members, cuts the hand off Marcus before finishing him after Marcus does such a tidy job trying to stop the bleeding by wrapping the stump in toilet paper. Then Hoax takes out the last gang member by shoving him into a neon sign brrrrrtzzzz. Hey, Evil E…excuse me Hoax is on a roll so you know that loud, pushy momma is next and rip she gets it. Then Hoax turns her house into this crystalized cave sort of a Fortress of Insanity. Marty who now has Spike’s teacher with him shows up at crystal house and so does Spike who has to come stag since his girl is dead and all. Start up the big finale even though these heroes such as they are have become very difficult to care about. So a chase starts and Hoax and Spike have it out which all winds up with Hoax being flipped into a fire pit below and then the ground swallows him up. So that’s it-oh, no wait twist ending alert- we see Mark Dark in an office and find out that he is operating 976-Evil and he’s keeing a file on those he takes over because he has a picture of Hoax in front of him. Oh, jeepers creepers role the credits and start penning the sequel.
So they stuck Spike’s teacher in the last half hour of the film just so she could have this done to her.
Number of fish that fall from sky once Spike starts using the hotline-Maybe 30 but they were pretending like was hundreds. Not the only thing that smelled fishy about this movie.
Number of teenage girls who wear men’s underwear or big baggy underwear-Two
Number of high school kids who don’t look like they are at least 23-None that having speaking roles.
Number of poker games that Marcus and his gang have whether with Spike or Hoax or without- I think four although maybe it was all part of one big long game.
Negatives? This movie falls into the trap that so many films in the late 80’s did which is to wrap the films up with blood an gore but never manage to be scary or even surprising. On top of that as previously mentioned the plot falls apart as the film goes along. Stephen Geoffreys has a lot of pressure on him to carry a lot of the film. He tries using the quirky mannerisms that worked for him in Frigh Night, but here we see he really needed a strong script to help him out and he didn’t have one. Patrick O’Bryan is about as one dimensional as he can be and you really should be made to care a little about the hero, but I actually cared less for him as the film went on.
Positives? At least they didn’t make a sequel. Oh, wait they did, but I have not seen it so I would guess that’s a positive for me. Spike was I believe the only character who returned for the second one and it was the last acting credit that IMDB lists for that actor, imagine that. The effects are mostly good for the budget, the crystalized house was probably the best effect. Casting Robert Picardo as Mark Dark was a good move as well. Sandy Dennis tried, but she wasn’t given all that much to do. JJ Cohen didn’t have a great role or a great gang, but something about his performance made me think he could have been a good gang leader in a film that offered him a little more to do. Despite the effort to give Geoffreys cute lines it’s Cohen’s “What’s up…Chuck?” that he delivers before hazing Hoax that tends to be the most memorable line of this film.
So should you see this if you have not already? Lovers of 80’s horror may want to give it a once over. More casual horror fans will likely to skip it because it’s nothing spectacular.