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If you are old enough to remember the late 80s, you know that it’s perfectly logical that someone would make a franchise about 976 numbers given the horror of the phone bills that resulted from people’s addictions to those numbers. And those damn commercials were omnipresent! Thank God we have the Internet now to screw up our lives for a much better price.

976-EVIL 2 is that rare sequel that is better than the first movie, but that ain’t saying a whole lot. Spike (Patrick O”Bryan) rides out of the first movie on his bike and immediately meets Robin (Debbie James) at a diner. He hits on her without knowing that she’s already connected to the killings in this movie. She’s involved, though, because 1. she worked for the killer, and 2. she’s having visions of the killer’s heinous acts, both past and future. Somehow the 976 horoscope line is involved because the killer has been calling it and it has given him the power to astral project; also, he lusts after Robin and wants her soul.

There’s also telekinesis, electric shocks on the phone lines, a demonic D.J. on a car radio, a talking stuffed boar’s head trophy, a possessed stripper who doesn’t get naked, and a terribly cheesy scene in which sunlight comes through a stained glass window in the strip club to make a silhouette of Spike looking like Jesus. Which of course foreshadows the part of the movie where he exits the franchise by getting killed doing something to save the world.

Oh, and Buck Flower showed up and made 500 bucks playing a drunk janitor/murder witness. As in the awful 80s slasher Berserker, ol’ Buck has one of the best scenes in the movie. I swear directors would just point the camera at that dude and let him say stuff off the top of his head, but he’s always fun to watch, even when he’s just ordering some food and classy white Thunderbird.

While 976-EVIL 2 is not a good movie, I enjoyed it quite a bit, and not in an ironic way. Well, OK, not chiefly in an ironic way. But I like it so much that I’ve seen it before and was happy to see it on the 8 pack! It doesn’t take itself seriously, and the two leads are attractive. And they both have really great hair, I mean, like ridiculously, awesomely big and beautiful curls. Also, there’s a great bit during which Robin’s friend gets teleported into a TV that is playing It’s A Wonderful Life, which then turns into a zombie movie. George Bailey’s little daughter kills her, but not before saying the classic line, “Every time you hear a bell, a zombie takes a soul to hell.” They really loved that technology which enabled you to insert people into old footage back around ’92, didn’t they? Remember the Diet Coke commercials with, was it Louis Armstrong? What a wonderful world.

Speaking of trends of the early 90s, why do all horror/thriller movies of that era include scenes with lots of bright “sunlight” shining through a window that has Venetian blinds while the film looks like there’s both smoke in the air and Vaseline on the lens? Recently I noticed this shot in Phantasm 2 and Blood Relations, and I’ve seen it in too many others to name.

Now, about the rankings on the 8 pack: I’m still gonna have to put Chopping Mall over this one. 976-EVIL 2 has some funny moments, but not all the humor is intentional as in Chopping Mall. Also, Chopping Mall makes more sense in terms of internal logic. 976-EVIL 2 does beat out Slaughter High; however, Slaughter High fans can take comfort in the fact that I still have to watch Ghoulies 3, so Slaughter High surely won’t be on the bottom for long.

P.S. For some reason, every time I see a credit for director Jim Wynorski (who also directed Chopping Mall), I think of Jim Anchower from The Onion. I’m sure if Jim Anchower was a real person he’d dig Wynorski’s movies as much as I do.