Thanks to Berlitz, Appellate Judge Tom Becker is fluent in Evilspeak and Nasdat.
Data incomplete. Human blood required.
A remarkable piece of unheralded kitsch is re-resurrected by Code Red.
Evilspeak is a veritable compendium of horror tropes from the late '70s and early '80s. It "borrows" liberally from the Carrie playbook and throws in carbon copy of a Friday the 13th dead body reveal, but it plays out with a quaint charm all its own.
We open in the 16th Century, with evil monk Esteban (Richard Moll, But I'm a Cheerleader) being banished from his village in Spain. It seems that Esteban is playing for the other team—Satan's team! He and his followers trudge down a beach, and he regales the multitudes by celebrating a Black Mass and lopping off a comely young lady's head.
Flash forward 400 or so years, and we're at the West Andover Military Academy. Strangely, they have a portrait of crazy monk Esteban hanging in their chapel—what the…? How is it that a friend of the devil is a friend of theirs? Well, there's a simple explanation: as the chaplain recounts to a senator's wife who's visiting her son on campus, "Father" Esteban received the land during the Inquisition, and it was somehow handed down through generations and eventually wound up as the academy.
(But…Esteban was in Spain and the academy is clearly in America. Did Esteban hitch a ride to the New Land with Columbus or Vespucci? Were they Satanists?? Is this going to give us a new take on history??? Am I overthinking a cheesy '80s horror movie???? Yeah, looks like…)
Anyway, here we meet our hapless hero, Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard, Bloodrayne: The Third Reich). When first we see him, he's fouled up a play in a soccer game, causing the school to lose—kinda like Carrie and that volleyball game. The difference is that Coopersmith doesn't have a sympathetic coach on his side. Instead, he's cruelly taunted in the locker room.
Here we pause for a moment to consider how the world has changed in the past 30 or so years. "You couldn't play for the March of Dimes," sneers one boy. "Ladies!" snarls the coach when he enters the locker room, before suggesting that the other boys stop Coopersmith from playing in the next soccer game by causing some kind of misfortune. The boys then taunt Coopersmith about being an orphan and a charity case—the school is obligated to take in a charity case every year—by suggesting that "the welfare lady" pretend to be his mother on family day.
Consider: if such things happened now, these interactions would be recorded on cell phones. They'd go viral. The taunters would be publicly shamed and likely expelled. The coach would be fired. The school might even be closed. The only winner here would be the unfortunate Coopersmith, who would temporarily become the face of bullying and would make some YouTube videos, and maybe an appearance on Dr. Phil.
Yes, I digress, but so much of Evilspeak, particularly the first half, is digression that it openly courts a wandering mind. We spend almost an hour watching Coopersmith bullied by his doltish classmates and, by extension, the doltish faculty and staff. Poor guy even gets threatened with sexual assault! "I'm gonna show you how I turn little boys into little girls, he-he-he!"
But while all this is going on, Coopersmith has a side project. During punishment duty at the chapel, he discovers a secret room filled with ancient books with Latin writing, lots of torches, and a crucifix-shaped crypt. Could it be? Yep, evidently Esteban did make his way to the New Land after all. With the help of a Jurassic-era computer—Judge Bill Gibron, in his review of an earlier release, identifies it as an Apple 2, and who am I to argue with that?—Coopersmith translates the Latin and starts dabbling in the black arts. Despite Internet use being many years away, Coopersmith starts receiving Instant Messages—from Hell!!!
Strangely, for all the time the film spends setting this up and showing us increasingly tedious details of both the bullying and the Black Mass preps, it never delves into why the otherwise well-meaning Coopersmith is so quick to embrace desecrating consecrated hosts and buddying up to the Prince of Darkness.
But again, I'm overthinking.
The real point of Evilspeak is carnage, and after a couple of grisly hors d'oeuvres, we get a banquet, complete with flying demons, decapitation, ravenous Hell Hogs, zombies, sacrilege, flames, mutilation, and all other things rendered through special effects that might have been created on that same Apple 2 computer that's on a direct line to Hades. On top of that, we get some gratuitous nudity—no small feat, given that this is set at an all-male military academy—a bonfire, a menaced puppy, a beauty contest, and a scene set at that definitive '80s hotspot, the local roller rink. The film just bludgeons you with idiosyncrasies before its exhilarating scenes of wholesale slaughter.
If you're looking to play a drinking game involving prolific but hard to identify character actors, Evilspeak is an essential purchase: Look, the friendly kitchen guy—it's Luca Brasi! Who's that evil monk? It's Bull from Night Court! Hey, there's that Toulouse-Lautrec guy from the first season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show! And Dwayne from What's Happening!! And Uncle Victor from Harold and Maude! And Bob Pinciotti from That '70s Show! And plenty of people you've just seen "around."
Code Red gives Evilspeak an excellent release. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looks great; while there are a few speckles here and there, it looks far better than you'd expect for a 30+ year-old low-budget feature. The gore was so heavy in Evilspeak that it was originally edited to avoid an X rating. According to the Code Red website, this is "fully restored from newly 35MM IP discovered vault sources—including all of its long-rumored scenes of bloody carnage (unlike the first release, which was a reconstruction from a 35MM release print)." The mono audio track is clean and clear.
Code Red presents an excellent slate of supplements, all new to this release: A commentary with director Eric Weston and extensive on-camera interviews with Clint Howard, Joe Cortese, and Don Stark, plus a trailer for the film, as well as trailers for other Code Red releases.
I don't know if Evilspeak bespeaks greatness, but it's a lot of fun, and Code Red's release is one of its better offerings. Definitely worth checking out.
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Studio: Code Red
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