Evilspeak Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Eric Westom
Written by Joseph Garofalo
1981, Region A, 92 minutes, Unrated
Blu-ray released on May 13th, 2014
Clint Howard as Stanley Coopersmith
R.G. Armstrong as Sarge
Joseph Cortese as Rev. Jameson
Claude Earl Jones as Coach
Don Stark as Bubba
Charles Tyner as Col. Kincaid
Richard Moll as Father Esteban
Haywood Nelson as Kowalski
Lenny Montana as Jake
Stanley Coopersmith attends a prestigious military academy where he is viewed as a sloppy charity case, a chubby orphan with zero athletic ability, worthy only of ridicule by both faculty and students alike. He has one friend, a cadet named Kowalski, who tries to stick up for him whenever possible, and a newly-adopted puppy, which is Stanley’s only other source of happiness. School bully Bubba and his gang of loyal jocks constantly torment their favorite victim, “Cooperdick”, sometimes with the encouragement of their soccer coach, who shares their resentment. It is while on punishment detail that Stanley discovers a hidden chamber in the chapel basement. Inside he discovers a collection of less-than-Christian materials, including a mysterious book that once belonged to Father Esteban, an outcast priest who turned to Satan for guidance in the 1600s.
With the assistance of an Apple II computer, Stanley sets out to translate the pages of this Satanic Bible in hopes of conducting a Black Mass in order to get revenge on his tormentors. Despite having a sinister solution in hand, he still manages to screw things up for a while, at one point even losing the book to a greedy secretary. She is after the jewel-encrusted cover piece, but this Bible has a defense mechanism that no one could anticipate. Suffice it to say, this film includes one of the strangest shower scenes in horror history. Once the tome is back in Stanley's possession, he completes the ritual and sets out to settle the score against anyone who crossed him--and his little dog, too!
Carrie goes to military school’ is one way to pitch Evilspeak, and I'm pretty sure someone did. The majority of the film's running time is dedicated to knocking Coopersmith deeper into the dirt and then stepping on his neck. By the time the boy turns to the dark side, audiences will be rooting for the devil to lay waste to these entitled bastards. Smite them Stanley does, in a showstopping finale that will satisfy the most jaded of horror fans. This is a fun movie and while some may claim it is a dark comedy along the lines of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), it is hard to believe the filmmakers were anything but serious in their intentions.
Clint Howard (Rock 'n' Roll High School) carries this entire film from the moment he first appears on screen. His performance as the unfortunate Stanley Coopersmith is instantly endearing, as the kid simply cannot catch a break. Fans of this low-budget icon who have not yet witnessed the joys of Evilspeak will want to take this opportunity to correct their oversight. Haywood Nelson (What's Happening!!) is the other likeable character in the film. As Kowalski, he is the only one who defends Coopersmith and is spared the slaughter of the grand finale. Consequently, he simply vanishes from the last act of the picture, a missed opportunity in that had he been the accidental source of the blood sacrifice Stanley needed, our hero would have been further devastated by the loss of his friend.
The supporting cast of antagonists is filled with familiar faces, starting with the always-welcome Richard Moll (House) as the infamous Father Esteban. Though his screen time is limited, he leaves a lasting and menacing impression. R.G. Armstrong (The Beast Within) chews his way through every scene he is in with an evil glint in his eye, and Joseph Cortese (American History X) is particularly intimidating as Reverend Jameson, a man who knows how to harm students using only his words. Don Stark (That '70s Show) really shines as Bubba the bully, a kid so smarmy you cannot wait to see him suffer at the hands of meek little Stanley. Rounding out the roster of “that guy” character actors are Charles Tyner (Harold & Maude) as Colonel Kincaid, Lenny Montana (The Godfather) as Jake and Claude Earl Jones (Dark Night of the Scarecrow) as the despicable Coach.
Working from a script by Joseph Garofalo, director Eric Westom (The Iron Triangle) devotes ample time to character development, which some viewers may find excessive for a story of this nature. Patient viewers will find the pacing deliberate and ultimately rewarding. Evilspeak is not exactly a “must see” movie, but frequent screenings on late-night cable have earned it a special place on my shelf. This picture was heavily edited before its theatrical release to avoid an ‘X’ rating from the MPAA, yet still managed to earn a spot on the UK's “Video Nasties” list. Fans of the film will be happy to note that while the movie is still missing a few minutes of dialogue, the celebrated moments of graphic violence are all intact and have never looked better. Anyone new to the title simply needs to know that this is the classic underdog story presented with a Satanic spin and some weird-ass demon pigs.
Video and Audio:
Presented here in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the film has never looked better. Throw away that old, censored VHS copy because this newly-minted uncut Blu-ray transfer comes from an original camera negative. There are plenty of strong colors and deep black levels to entice viewers, although some of the sequences under the church are still a bit dodgy in the shadows.
An English Mono DTS HD track is the only option and it is surprisingly effective. Music and effects are both impressive and never muddy. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion and English subtitles are offered for anyone in need.
Starting things off is a commentary track with director Eric Weston that previously appeared on the Code Red DVD. The discussion is guilty of frequently wandering off-topic and is a bit insensitive at times concerning the description of on-screen talent, but is generally entertaining. Fans of the film will want to hang on to their earlier Anchor Bay DVD, as that disc included a different commentary that included Weston with actor Clint Howard. Its absence here is a bit of a disappointment.
New to this release is a half-hour look at the making of Evilspeak titled Satan's Pigs and Severed Heads, in which various members of the cast reminisce about their involvement with the picture. Haywood Nelson and Claude Earl Jones speak candidly about the script while Richard Moll hams his way through a particularly entertaining set of stories. Everyone agrees that Clint Howard is awesome, but it is a shame his interview is not incorporated into this retrospective featurette.
Also returning from the previous DVD is a collection of stand-alone cast interviews, including Clint Howard (12 minutes), Don Stark (10 minutes) and Joe Cortese (7 minutes). Each offers fond reflections of his time working on the film, but the production value is a bit lower than some of the newly-produced content provided.
Effects Speak (15 minutes) is a nice interview with artist Allan A. Apone, who discusses his career in effects work in general before focusing on Evilspeak specifically. The discussion is lively and informative and worth checking out.
Rounding things out is the film's original theatrical trailer.
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