Evilspeak (1981)

Author: Wes R.
Submitted by: Wes R.   Date : 2009-11-10 03:19

Directed by: Eric Weston
Written by: Joseph Garofalo and Eric Weston
Starring: Clint Howard, R.G. Armstrong, and Richard Moll

Reviewed by: Wes R.

“Yeah, maybe you're right. Maybe this puppy's better off not making it. It's a tough world out there.
You've got to be able to kick and scratch if you want to survive.”

No one can deny the power technology wields over the modern world. Some embrace it, yet others fear it. In the 1980s, computers were becoming more commonplace, even if not every home had one, just yet. It is in this time period that we see computers playing a larger role in Hollywood as well. Superman III featured a plot dependent on Richard Pryor’s hacker character stealing money from a corporation. Weird Science featured a computer-era take on the Bride of Frankenstein story. Never afraid to miss a fad, the horror genre wasn’t to be left behind. Clint Howard starrer, Evilspeak aimed to take computers to a much more frightening place in the audience’s psyche. Would it succeed, or was it in desperate need of a reboot?

Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard) is a dork. Not only that, he is a bumbling dork. His teammates at the West Andover Military Academy have had enough of his blown plays and lost games. To bypass a loophole in the school's policy that says he has to play, they start making his life a living hell in order to get him kicked off the team. While poking around a forgotten tomb underneath the school, Stanley finds a black mass book belonging to a 16th century Satanist by the name of Esteban (Richard Moll). To help him translate the book, he turns to his computer for help. Once the soccer teammates go too far in their far from good-natured ribbing, Stanley uses the computer to conjure the spirit of Esteban to help him exact a bloody revenge on the snobby students of West Andover.

Somewhere along the line, while most other production companies and studios were putting money toward knock-offs of Friday the 13th and Halloween someone thought it would be a good idea to mix The Omen, Carrie, and The Exorcist with a computer. What an odd little movie this was. Moving statues, possessed hogs, Clint Howard flying... Evilspeak definitely gets points for covering ground never covered before (or since). Essentially being a male version of the Carrie story, we are supposed to, of course, sympathize with the main character's tragic plight, despite the fact that he willingly turns to the devil for help. A pretty tall order for most, but likely made all the easier once Stanley's antagonists murder his defenseless puppy. The computer itself doesn't really play that great of a role, other than being the psychic go-between (I guess ouija boards were too old fashioned by this time) for Esteban and Stanley.

The film's biggest enemy is that it plays its ludicrous concept extremely straight. Despite the fact that during the finale, you have what is essentially a flying Clint Howard attacking people with a sword, everything is played very serious. Of course, this was before Clint became the cult figure he is today (pre-Ice Cream Man). The film also has quite a mean streak. I've already mentioned the death of a puppy, but there is also a threatened male-on-male rape (by R.G. Armstrong... the old man from Metallica's "Enter Sandman" video and countless movies), and a woman is attacked and eaten alive while in the shower by a horde of wild, possessed hogs. Despite all of this excitement, the pacing of the movie is extremely lax, as it builds toward its gruesome, if unbelievable climax. Yeah, it's pretty much another one of those flicks where not a great deal happens until the final twenty minutes or so. While this isn't always a bad thing (I for one, loved Final Exam, which essentially does the same thing) it probably isn't for the impatient horror fan. Most of today's horror fans raised on the quick-cut editing and break-neck paced storytelling of your average Platinum Dunes movie would probably consider Evilspeak to be "boring".

Though they can't completely outweigh the negative, the movie has a few nice stylistic touches peppered throughout. The standout scene was probably the one featuring the statue of Christ. In the scene, we see a close up of the statue's wrist as it pulsates, coming to life and then out of nowhere, one of the nails in the palm shoots outward and impales a priest right in the forehead. A very unsettling, eye-popping moment for sure. Having a soft spot for early 80s synth music in horror, I actually enjoyed the film's musical score by Roger Kellaway when it wasn't trying to sound too much like The Omen. The film's gore quotient was impressive, but not quite the all-out gore-fest it had been reputed to be. Still, there is plenty enough impressive FX to be enjoyed here. One character's head is completely turned backwards, while another has his beating heart ripped right from his chest. Yet another, (the show-stopper for me) has his head cleaved in two right down the middle. Don't go into it expecting Evil Dead-like quantity, but the quality of what you do get is certainly top notch.

Released on DVD by Anchor Bay, the film was given a treatment better than many of its contemporaries. The anamorphic picture is quite crisp, even if the picture is a tad on the dark side (likely due to the cinematography, though). Extras aren't plentiful, but there is a commentary track with director Eric Weston and actor Clint Howard. Overall, Evilspeak isn't the kind of movie you'll fondly champion among your horror watching buddies, but it's not one that you will loathe either. I wouldn't exactly call this flick a lost gem, but sometimes even a uniquely formed pebble is worth at least a single look. If you're tired of the usual stalk and slash fare, kill a couple of hours and rent this one. It's not likely to be one you will revisit annually, but true-blue gorehounds could do much worse. Rent it!

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