Clint Howard wears a toupee and avenges a puppy in Evilspeak
Don’t let Evilspeak‘s cheesy-looking computer graphics fool you – it’s a fun film from 1981 courtesy of director Eric Weston, starring Clint Howard as the bullied protagonist Stanley Coopersmith. Richard Moll also shows up to play his standard evil-doer role as the satanic Father Esteban, and Claude Earl Jones takes on the shady Coach. A host of quality character actors make up the cast of this enjoyable military-school riff on Carrie.
Howard’s character Coopersmith is one of the most berated recruits at the military academy; he’s got one friend in Kowalski (Haywood Nelson), but both of them are ganged up on by a group of guys who simply like to make their lives a living hell. Bubba (Don Stark) is the ringleader, and he messes with Coopersmith at every turn. It doesn’t help that his superiors allow the bullying to happen, and sometimes even encourage it; Coopersmith is placed on cleaning duty in the church’s basement, and he uncovers a mysterious book of evilspeak that he enters into his computer.
Apparently this computer is better than the Internet, because it can calculate immeasurable pieces of data and figure out what’s missing. Coopersmith wants to call Satan, and the spirit of Father Esteban helps lead him. Antics ensue, including wild boar attacks and a finale where Coopersmith takes up a sword and starts hauling away at all those that bullied him, until he finally gets the revenge he deserves.
Evilspeak is considerably moody, and Weston centers a large portion of the film in the church’s basement – a windy, candlelit expanse of stone hallways, religious artifacts, and cobwebs punctuated by a sizzling synth score. Though Evilspeak is never overwhelmingly spooky, it has quite a bit of atmosphere, even when it switches back and forth between the rowdy, comedic behavior of military boys.
The biggest draw to the film, though, is Howard, who manages to forge Coopersmith into a realistic, empathetic individual; his wide eyes create the pathos, but it’s also due to Howard’s somewhat unique appearance as well. Evilspeak hammers home the abuse that Coopersmith has to take throughout the movie, too – not only did he lose his parents in a car crash, he’s also got to suffer through constant barrages of dickbags. The inciting event that causes Coopersmith to finish his Satanic rite is the murder of a puppy, an egregious act that angers the audience as much as the main character.
The Carrie-esque conclusion is full of special effects, and it’s nice to see the bullies get what they deserve. The end indicates that Coopersmith uses this Satanic black magic as a means of revenge and nothing more; Satan is, apparently, a man who believes only those who lived a sinful life deserve to be slaughtered, because the world goes back to normal after that incident. It doesn’t quite compute, having Coopersmith’s visage stuck in the computer for eternity, but Evilspeak isn’t concerned with the consequences after the events of the film.
The movie doesn’t dull over time, and there’s a sense of catharsis as Coopersmith slaughters his enemies, beheading them with his giant sword. Though Evilspeak asks the viewer to side with evil, at least for a time, Weston imbues the main theme of this horror with a message that, over time, the bullied will become empowered by their abuse, with or without Satan’s help.
Scream Factory’s packaging is great, and the disc’s case opens up to two alternative posters of Evilspeak. The Blu-Ray itself has all-new commentary from Eric Weston; there’s a making-of featurette about a half an hour in length with interviews from supporting cast.
There’s a special interview with SFX artist Allan Apone as well; three interviews with the main cast members Clint Howard, Joe Cortese, and Don Stark round out the rest of the features. Overall there’s about an hour of footage to get through, and it’s certainly worth picking up this Blu-Ray, as is the case with all of Scream Factory’s output.