Judge Patrick Bromley is only partially fluent in evil.
Remember the little kid you used to pick on? Well, he's a big boy now.
The obvious ancestor of Carrie and the predecessor to 976-Evil, Eric Weston's 1981 horror movie Evilspeak is another tale of a bullied weirdo who exacts his revenge on his persecutors. The big difference this time is that he uses computerized devil worship, bloodthirsty pigs and Bull from Night Court.
A well-cast Clint Howard plays said weirdo, Stanley Coopersmith, a student at a military school who is constantly pushed around by the other guys. While cleaning a cellar one day, Stanley comes across an old-looking book that turns out to be a book of Satanic black magic written by ancient Satanist Father Estaban (Richard Moll, seen only in the movie's prologue). Stanley uses a computer to translate the text and begins to conjure the powers of Satan, which he uses to make demon pigs appear from nowhere to eat people and eventually, harnessing the spirit of Estaban, picks up a sword to take care of business himself.
Evilspeak is a crazy movie. Like, crazy. In a good way. Unfortunately, it's also kind of boring at times, taking well over an hour to get where it's going. Though the payoff makes it worth it (the film originally received an "X" rating for violence and was named a "Video Nasty" in the UK; Scream Factory's Blu-ray restores the previously cut footage), there's nearly an hour in which Stanley is picked on, tries to translate text, looks for stuff, is picked on, looks for stuff, tries to translate the text, repeat. If the movie wants to be about how difficult it is to conjure the power of Satan using an early model PC, then mission accomplished. I don't think that's what they were after.
Despite the slower spots—and there are plenty of slower spots—Evilspeak remains an enjoyably overlooked horror film just for its eccentricities. The casting of Clint Howard is smart; while he fails to create much of a character with Stanley Coopersmith, using Howard as a weirdo who turns to Satan is an economical shortcut in making us understand this guy even if he never quite garners our sympathy beyond wanting to side with the guy being bullied. The way the screenplay combines computers and devil worship plant it firmly in some big '80s paranoia; it's what every parent was worried about until heavy metal and Dungeons & Dragons came along to supplant it. The appearance of the pigs in completely bonkers, but hey, I've never seen that in a movie before (unless you count Hannibal, but those were actual pigs, not magic demon pigs). Then there are those last 10 minutes, which make the movie worth the wait.
While I can't say I loved every second of Evilspeak, it was a movie that wasn't even on my radar prior to Scream Factory's announcement that it would be added to their ever-growing catalogue of outstanding horror releases. This is exactly the kind of movie the studio should be putting out—in addition to the more high-profile cult favorites, rescuing forgotten efforts like this, releasing them in their uncut form and giving them the "special edition" treatment is why so many of us love this company. Their work on Evilspeak doesn't rival their best efforts, but it's easily better than anyone could have ever expected the movie to get. The 1.78:1/1080p transfer shows its age at times, with a few scratches and visible white specking throughout, plus some softness that's likely a source issue and not a result of the transfer. Still, it looks good overall. The DTS-HD 2.0 Mono audio track does a nice job with the dialogue and the constant, blaring satanic choral chants that make up much of Roger Kellaway's score.
A new commentary by co-writer/director Eric Weston (moderated by Bill Olsen of Code Red, the company that produces several of Scream Factory's extras) is entertaining without always being substantive. There's a good amount of behind-the-scenes production information, but Weston often tends to off on tangents that are very enjoyable. A new retrospective documentary is a lot of fun, too; though neither Weston nor Clint Howard appear, there are comments from most of the film's supporting cast (including Haywood Nelson of TV's What's Happening?), who all admit to not really "getting" the movie and not thinking much of it during shooting. I had some issues with the audio levels on the doc, with some speakers (like Richard Moll) very hard to hear but the clips from the movie coming out much louder. A new interview with effects designer Allan Apone discusses the bloody finale. Also included are some interviews with Howard, Joseph Cortese and Don Stark (That '70s Show) that have been carried over from a 2004 DVD release and the movie's original trailer, presented in standard definition.
There's little chance I'll be returning to Evilspeak as often as I do some similarly underrated other Scream Factory titles like The Funhouse and Night of the Comet. But then October will come around, and I'll get the itch to watch something with which I'm less familiar…something offbeat…something with Clint Howard. And I don't own Ice Cream Man.
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