Evilspeak (DVD)

Why, oh why wasn’t a horde of hungry pigs there to protect my ass through the four years of teenage angst also known as high school? For starters, I didn’t have the same luck bestowed upon Evilspeak’s jug-headed Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard), a social misfit who’s all brains and not much else; a direct off the factory floor, Grade A loser he is. And if you think this young lad’s journey from fragile innocence to cavorting with the powers of Satan occurs under the roof of your basic public school, you’ve got another thing coming, oh yes.

Poor Coopersmith was dumped in a military academy after the death of his folks. Ouch. Jocks are a rough lot to handle, but military jocks, according to this film, are an unrelenting bunch. They taunt Coopersmith. Bully and intimidate him. “You couldn’t play for the March of Dimes!” they jab after Coopersmith single-handedly blows a soccer match. And it doesn’t end there; hatred for this munchkin-faced buffoon rises up in the ranks of even the school’s administration!

Cleaning the academy’s church basement one afternoon, Coopersmith finds a hidden room stockpiled with your basic array of devilish paraphernalia, and he becomes fascinated by a tome penned by a wonky-eyed, long deceased devil lover named Esteban (played by House’s Richard Moll). Going where Matthew Broderick in WarGames never dared, Coopersmith uses his computer (a Jurassic period piece of hardware) to translate the Latin text within this book. On the sly, during class, he asks his computer what one would need to perform a Black Mass, to which his answer comes in a grocery list-like fashion: black candles, unholy water (!), blood, etc. Initially, Coopersmith’s half-hearted interest in the black arts comes across as playful dabblings. Then his recently adopted runt of a puppy finds itself on the receiving end of a sacrificial dagger (yelp!), and all hell breaks loose as our loser transforms into a sword-wielding, floating badass who exacts Sissy Spacek-inspired wet and chunky revenge with a pack of prodigious porkers.

Evilspeak was released by a post-Exorcist Warner Bros. in ‘81 after suffering the most unkind cuts (additionally, it made the infamous video nasties list in the UK), some of which are now restored in this presentation. However, there’s an awful lot of padding to wade through before gore hounds will get the fix they’re looking for. Producer and co-writer Eric Weston (who revised a script by Joseph Garofalo) fills his directorial debut with too many hokey, and ultimately uninteresting, plot contrivances. Coopersmith is ridiculed, he loses his book, ridiculed some more, and so it goes. We’re well on our hands and knees gasping for grue by the time R. G. Armstrong’s role (as Sarge) takes a “turn” for the worst. And when Weston finally rolls out the trough of red stuff for our consumption, we feast happily on lingering shots of exploding heads, heart extractions, and the overall suffering Coopersmith’s hecklers experience. It’s likely you’ll remember Evilspeak’s finale before the hour and fifteen minutes worth of story that preceded it.

Chuckles aplenty come from seeing a fair share of retro computer effects (accompanied by some funky retro sound effects too), Howard’s bare ass, a secretary’s laughably uneven exposed rack, and even That ‘70s Show’s Don Stark, looking leaner and sans afro. And while it could be looked upon as a laudable entry in Clint Howard’s career, Evilspeak undoubtedly gave the young actor more screen time but little to chew on. Even in his first crack at “leading man” material, Howard takes the backseat to some otherwise ambitious special effects. But for all the wonderful red slop we’re exposed to, Evilspeak is still, at its core, only a ghetto version of Carrie with a watered-down (lest we forget “hi-tech”) Exorcist influence.

As mentioned above, Anchor Bay has dredged up some of the “choice cuts” made to Evilspeak for this edition, all of them easily spotted due to degradation in picture quality. Seamless additions they’re not, but we’re thankful for them nonetheless. The DVD also features an original theatrical trailer (1m52s), liner notes penned by Anchor Bay’s Michael Felsher, and an audio commentary with Weston, Howard, and Warren Lewis, who credits himself as an overall production “roundabout.” It’s only as good as your interest in the film itself. Me? Not so much so I lost interest early on. Weston needs a little coaxing to stir up those old memories; Howard and Lewis are thankfully there to help out.

(Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Directed by Eric Weston
Starring Clint Howard, Don Stark, Claude Earl Jones, R. G. Armstrong, Charles Tyner

Special Features:
Director and actor commentary

3 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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