Stars: Clint Howard, R.G. Armstrong, Joe Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Don Stark, Charles Tyner, Hamilton Camp, Louie Gravance, Jim Greenleaf, Lynn Hancock, Loren Lester | Written by Eric Weston, Joseph Garofalo | Directed by Eric Weston
From the 1970’s and 80’s to now, one thing will always be a sad constant: bullies will always exist. And there will always be that weak-willed teenager who is the constant target of these awful people. But, there’s always this fulfillment that comes about from films like Patrick and Carrie, that the bullied kid has a tendency to lash out at those who oppress them with otherworldly forces. These kids search outward for any escape and that leads them to some very dark corners. In the case of Evilspeak, that dark corner is The Devil himself, and the results are typically gory and fantastically outrageous.
Put simply, Evilspeak, is about a thousand pounds of crazy in a ten pound bag. It’s the kind of film where you could sense the writers throwing all sorts of crazy at the wall and seeing whatever will stick, and a whole lot sticks to this script. You want satanically possessed hogs disemboweling a woman? Go for it. Heads being lopped off with a geyser of gore so large it’d give Herschel Gordon Lewis pause? That’s here and then some. It all works, because of the sheer audacity of it, and the commitment of everyone involved. It’s the kind of film that has Richard Moll as a Black Mass priest resurrected through an Apple Macintosh (the plot reminded me of that awful season one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ‘I Robot, You Jane’)and possessing the body of a put upon military school cadet. Seems insane, right. It’s definitely as insane as it sounds, but it works because all elements, acting, special effects and direction collide together to make a mélange of insanity that flies high right until the end.
My problems with Evilspeak lend themselves to the sheer repugnancy of the characters in the film. Outside of Clint Howard’s Stanley, or his buddy, or the cook in the cafeteria, almost all of the characters are just vessels that solely exist to place as much misery onto Stanley as possible. And I get it, the bullies need to awful to make the violent comeuppance all the more satisfying, but the problem is, these bullies are just violent, awful people who dabble in animal cruelty (the only part of the film that really did not sit well with me) and murder (even at one point threatening to throw Stanley’s friend out of a second floor window). Even the bullies in “Carrie” weren’t as bad as these guys are. It wouldn’t be so bad, if there was some person in the film that even had the remotest bit of sympathetic overtone (other than the aforementioned two), but otherwise it just feels like watching a kid get beat down for seventy minutes with some really nifty effects at the very end as the film goes all apocalyptic on the audience.
That’s not to say that Evilspeak isn’t well acted in that regard, it most certainly is. R.G Armstrong shows up playing the perfect mixture of sleazy drunk that he did so well in the 80’s as the bizarrely named Sarge. Don Stark stands out as the bully who torments poor Stanley (and not just because of my flashbacks to That 70’s Show) but really this is all Clint Howard’s show. He does fantastic work as Stanley and really gives a sympathy to the character and makes you feel strongly when he’s put upon by anyone and everyone within reach. He plays the put upon kid with relish and makes you want to be on his side, and plays up the isolation angle very strongly. Probably because Stanley’s the only character that’s actually fleshed out, and all the others are just ciphers that exist to merely antagonize, for any and all reasons that go unexplained, to put it plainly, the mercilessness is unfounded.
Unfortunately, that just leaves him not too much to do at the film’s fiery climax when he just floats around with a thousand yard stare on his face. Co-writer and director Eric Weston moves the film along keeping the audience entertained, moving right into the end. The film’s climax is well-earned because the film takes a leisurely pace towards the finish line (all of Stanley’s revenge on the cadets takes up the last fifteen minutes), and really allows for the spookiness of the subject matter to sink in as we slowly watch poor Stanley’s mental strength slowly deteriorate. As fulfilling as the end is, I wasn’t over the moon about the text that just appears on screen telling us where Stanley ended up, but I loved the final scrawl with the computer insinuating that this story isn’t quite over.
The blu-ray is clear in many spots, mostly in the outdoor scenes and there is a sharpness to the scenes set in Stanley’s underground lair. But, there’s also a graininess to the scenes; but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Rather, it gives you the feeling of experiencing Evilspeak as it was intended – a VHS type quality to the picture that makes you feel as if you’d picked this up in the horror section of your video store as opposed to buying it on blu-ray. The audio is pristine and the music comes across clean and clear, it practically feels as if the ominous chants that permeate the soundtrack are being slung from right over your shoulder.
88 Films’ new UK release is packed with bonus features, including an introduction by Eric Weston; Audio Commentary with Producer / Director Eric Weston, Actor Clint Howard and Location Manager Warren Lewis; Interview with actor Clint Howard; Interview with actor Don Stark; Interview with actor Joseph Cortese; Satan’s Pigs and Severed Heads: The Making of Evilspeak; Effects Speak with Allan A. Apone; and the Theatrical Trailer. The first pressing also comes with a limited edition slipcase.
Evilspeak is released on Blu-ray on January 25th, courtesy of 88 Films.