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Evilspeak (1981)

Shout! Factory
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/13/2014

All Ratings out of


Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/2/2014

You don't have to be an existential philosopher to think about the fact that memory is a very strange thing. It's odd how we can vividly recall some things, but other memories can be fuzzy. We can summon some memories on cue, while others simply pop into our heads (typically when we're nearly through telling a story, making us realize that we've been telling it wrong. "Did I mention he was a robot?") Something similar occurs when we think about movies. If you've ever been around a movie fanatic for more than a minute, you know that they've memorized some movies. But, others can be a blur. One would hope that every movie would have at least one memorable moment, if not more. In the case of Evilspeak, nearly 30 years later, the film's finale was very familiar and now I must forget the rest of the movie again.

Evilspeak is set at a military prep school, where we meet cadet Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard), who is a complete mess. While the other boys come from lives of privilege, Stanley is an orphan who can't seem to do anything right -- he's late for class, his clothes are a mess, he can't play soccer. When Stanley is ordered to clean the basement of the chapel, he finds a mysterious old book and some odd artifacts. Ignoring his chores, he begins to investigate these items and finds they are part of a demonic ritual. Bringing an Apple II computer to the basement (?!), Stanley begins to conduct the ritual. At first, he seems to be doing it out of sheer curiosity. But, as the abuse by the other students mounts, Stanley attempts to summon the dark powers in order to seek his revenge. As Stanley progresses with this, the cadets will realize that they've picked on the wrong guy.

Evilspeak does two things which helped to set it apart from the pack when it was first released. First of all, the film arrived when the slasher cycle was in full swing. While Halloween II and Friday the 13th Part 2, and many, many imitators, were unspooling at local cinemas, Evilspeak was harkening back to the sort of occult storylines which dominated horror films in the early and mid 70s. This return to a more classic horror format may have seemed like a gamble, but "counter programming" has certainly been known to pay off. Along with 1981's other well-known satanic entry, Fear No Evil, it was clear that there were still those who wanted to go against the grain.

The other thing which makes Evilspeak stand out is the finale. I watched a ton of horror films in the 80s, and I seemed to remember loving most of them. However, when I went back and watched them as adults, I found that most were boring chat-fests where the characters talked a lot, but nothing ever happened. You can't say the same for Evilspeak. While there are two notable sequences earlier in the film -- one involving a shower and one involving a neck -- things really go off the rails in the last ten minutes or so. We are treated to levitation, beheadings, fire, animal attacks, and bad hairdos. For much of the film, it's unclear exactly what tone Co-Writer/Director Eric Weston is going for, but it's obvious that he wanted anarchy for the ending and he got it. If nothing else, if you watch Evilspeak, you will remember how it ends.

As for the rest of the film, well, it's not very good. Not that I was expecting utter realism here, but Evilspeak is one of those movies which deals too much in extremes. Coopersmith is such an incompetent loser that it borders on parody. The other cadets are unrealistically evil. (Yes, I know that this was done to make justify Coopersmith's revenge, but it's still too much.) Clint Howard, who has become somewhat of a cult figure, was 22 at the time, so he wasn't necessarily way too old to play a teen, but with his receding hairline (which me mentions in an interview), he certainly looks out of place. While the script by Weston and Joseph Garofalo has some interesting ideas, the movie never quite explains how the computer gets in on the demonic action. And something tells me that Apple doesn't list its appearance in this movie as one of the highpoints for the company. Warts aside, those who like 80s horror and movies which really go for broke should certainly check out Evilspeak, if for nothing else to see that, yes, that movie with the pigs does exist.

Evilspeak even throws in a zombie at the end on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Shout! Factory. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is somewhat sharp and clear. There is some mild grain present, as well as some defects from the source materials in the form of white specks on the image. To its credit, the colors do look good here, although the picture is somewhat dark in some shots. The level of detail is consistent with a movie of this age, as is the depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 1.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While we don't get any dazzling audio effects here, the score never overpowers the dialogue and there is no noteworthy hissing or popping on the track.

The Evilspeak Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/Producer Eric Weston. "Satan's Pigs and Severed Heads: The Making of Evilspeak" (28 minutes) offers interviews with some minor cast members -- Richard Moll, Haywood Nelson, Lynn Hancock, Loren Lester, Claude Earl Jones -- who talk about how they became involved in the film and share some stories from the set. This piece drags on as the anecdotes about the casting process aren't very interesting. "Effects Speak with Allan A. Apone" (15 minutes) is an interview with the special effects make-up artist. We get modern-day interviews with actors Clint Howard (12 minutes), Don Stark (10 minutes) , and Joe Cortese (7 minutes), who reflect on the film. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long