Evilspeak wasn’t a film I grew up with, although it was one of those movies that I had always heard a lot about- mostly due to its ‘outrageously graphic’ content, which a good portion of ended up on the cutting room floor back in 1981. The cult classic has finally been resurrected in high definition, courtesy of Scream Factory, in a presentation befitting all of Clint Howard’s Satan-fueled nerd rage and gory aftermath that followed.
Howard plays Stanley Coopersmith, an orphan who is constantly bullied at the military academy that he is forced to attend after his parents were killed in an automobile accident. Stanley is the very definition of awkward, which makes it all the easier for his classmates (and even teachers) to pick on him and torment him mercilessly. While cleaning out the chapel’s basement on campus one afternoon, Stanley stumbles upon an ancient spell book that has the power to resurrect a 16th century priest by the name of Esteban (Richard Moll), who was condemned for his mastery of the dark arts. And if you haven’t seen Evilspeak yet, you can pretty much guess where all this is leading to- nowhere good for either Stanley or his bullies.
Being a movie that I had heard about endlessly over the years from my fellow genre fans, it pains me to say that I didn’t exactly fall in love at first sight with Evilspeak. It’s not that it wasn’t well-made or anything like that, it’s more that I it did very little to engage us with this story or get us to even care about its characters. There’s plenty of weirdness to the story of Evilspeak that I dug and there is tons of gore to go around, but I just couldn’t get into a movie that does nothing but emotionally pummel its protagonist for the first 70 minutes then doesn’t give him or the audience a truly satisfying conclusion.
Evilspeak does feature some generally great performances though; Howard is heart-achingly good as the down-trodden Stanley who has chosen isolation as his own defense mechanism. You can tell he’s a good kid that probably hasn’t gotten a fair shake a single day of his life and Howard quietly plays that up as we see him struggle against his oppressors. R.G. Armstrong also does some scene-stealing work (as always) and we also get to see some solid work from the likes of Haywood Nelson (of What’s Happening fame- Hey, hey, hey!), Charles Tyner, Joe Cortese, Richard Moll (who I could have used more of) and That 70’s Show’s Don Stark, who plays a relentless bully in Evilspeak.
Scream Factory does a great job with their high-def packaging of Evilspeak. The picture and sound quality on the film is fantastic and they’ve included a ton of special features for fans that should keep you busy for a while. There’s the obligatory trailer and commentary track with Weston included, but I’d say that the real gold on the Evilspeak Blu-ray were the interviews featuring many of the film’s cast members who discuss their experiences working on the film. There’s a clear love and admiration for Evilspeak from the interviewees, with Moll being by far the most engaging interview subject of the bunch.
For the long-time Evilspeak fans out there, clearly Scream Factory had your best interests in mind while putting together the Blu-ray for this often overlooked low-budget supernatural shocker. And even though I was hoping for more from the film, that’s not to say that Evilspeak isn’t without its merits. There are some genuinely weird and gruesome moments (like pig disembowelment) that were fun and it features a wonderful performance by Howard.
Movie Score: 3/5, Disc Score: 4/5