As a longtime Clint Howard fan I’ll always have a soft spot for EVILSPEAK, which marked Clint’s first-ever starring role—even if it is extremely dated and overall quite dumb. Clint Howard was 21 when he filmed this 1981 production, one of countless splatter fests that followed in the wake of HALLOWEEN. EVILSPEAK, it must be said, is one of the more unique such films, being the first I know of to utilize a computer in its narrative.
The film was a surprise hit, earning over $400,000 in its opening weekend (in limited release), and has since become a sought after cult item among gorehounds.
At an elite military academy the nerdy Stanley Coopersmith is bullied by everyone. A group of snooty cadets frequently gang up on him and the instructors make no effort to disguise their loathing of Stanley. But then one day Stanley stumbles onto the centuries-old crypt of an executed Satanist, from which he retrieves an old book.
Stanley uses a computer program to translate the book’s language, which is actually a bunch of arcane spells. The following morning Stanley is detained in the headmaster’s office, and the latter’s bimbo secretary tries to jimmy with the emblem on the book’s cover—which agitates some pigs in a nearby pen. In the meantime Stanley, unable to find the book, uses his computer to summon the evil forces referenced in the text.
The summoning works, unleashing evil forces that among other things cause a guy’s head to twist all the way around on his neck and another man to get impaled on a spiked chandelier. The aforementioned secretary fares even worse, ending up ripped apart by those restless pigs.
Stanley grows really pissed when he discovers his beloved puppy has been killed by the bullies. He casts a final apocalyptic spell that causes mass mayhem in a church where, conveniently enough, all Stanley’s tormentors are present.
EVILSPEAK was the first film directed by Eric Weston (who went on to helm seven more features, most recently 2011’s HYENAS), and cinematically it’s passable. It actually looks pretty good considering the painfully low budget, and the always watchable Clint Howard is quite endearing in the lead role.
The unfortunate thing is that Howard’s role is largely reactive, with seemingly every other shot featuring Clint looking at someone/thing in shock, sadness or bewilderment. Another unfortunate element is the script, which takes its sweet time getting to the gory business.
The head lopping, impalements and heart ripping of the final 20 minutes are diverting, though hardly as shocking as they apparently once were; the film was famously cut for its initial release to avoid an R rating. The 2004 DVD release restores a lot of the excised footage (much of which is reportedly lost forever), which isn’t especially novel or shocking by modern standards, and makes one wonder just what all the shouting was about.
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Director: Eric Weston
Producers: Sylvio Tabet, Eric Weston
Screenplay: Joseph Garofalo, Eric Weston
Cinematography: Irv Goodnoff
Editing: Charles Tetoni
Cast: Clint Howard, R.G. Armstrong, Charles Tyner, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Don Stark, Hamilton Camp, Louie Gravance, Jim Greenleaf