Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Video Nasty #17 - Evilspeak

Of the American films on the DPP's list, Evilspeak from 1981 is one of the most accomplished looking, but also one of the more dated, and much of it's appeal will hinge on how nostalgic you feel towards an era when the humble personal computer was considered an all powerful piece of hardware, a myth propagated by the likes of Evilspeak, War Games (1983) and Electric Dreams (1984).

The film set in a military school concerns Cooper-Smith, an awkward and clumsy teenager who regularly falls in for some abuse from the bullies and the scorn of his teachers. After a chance discovery of a book of black magic in the school basement, Cooper-Smith programs a spell into a computer to invoke the spirit of Estaban, an evil 16th century satan worshipping monk, and before you can say pig blood blues, all hell breaks loose...

Evilspeak hit on the novel idea of using new technology to harness some very old spells, but strip that away and the film is mostly derivative of other horror films - Carrie, quite obviously, but you'll find stuff in there from The Omen - the doberman dogs here replaced by wild boars as emissaries of satan, as well as The Exorcist, when actor RG Armstrong (about to show how he can "turn a little boy into a little girl") has his head twisted back to front. That aside, the film is entertaining enough - Cooper-Smith's tormentors are such despicable shits (at point killing his pup in a mock ritual) that their comeuppance is one to savour in the excellent and uncharacteristic gory climax which features some spectacular decapitations and a rather visceral heart-ripping.

Well directed by the undistinguished Eric Weston, Evilspeak gains much from its cast. The doomed Cooper-Smith played by the prolific character actor Clint Howard (brother of Ron) is absolutely great, all nervous and twitchy, and there's sterling work from his supporting actors. The film could have easily played on TV were in not for the splatter in the final act, but perhaps the DPP were worried that teenage boys would be sacrificing small animals to their Commodore 64s, and in a comprehensive roundup, both the original uncut tape and a revised cut version of the film were removed from video shops.

Anchor Bay's 2004 edition of Evilspeak is a decent enough release, containing a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer taken from the longest available print. Mostly the film looks very good, but there are occasional snippets taken from a lesser quality source. An almost subliminal shot of a boar chewing on a woman's intestines looks so washed out it might have been taken from a workprint. Audio is serviceable, and the extras feature a trailer and a group audio commentary including Clint Howard and Eric Weston.


  1. I would have sacrificed animals to my Commodore 64 back in the day Wes, a king amongst home computers!

  2. Oh me too... All those great memories - The Last Ninja, Turrican, Bubble Bobble, Ghosts n' Goblins, Rainbow Islands, Shinobi... I was never a gamer past the C64 though, friends graduated to the Amiga and the Sega Megadrive but I discovered movies and music instead and never looked back...

  3. I like this one - own that DVD - and it is indeed a nostalgic romp to the very early days of home computing.

  4. Yep, agreed. Computers age so quickly, in fact I watched Alien 3 last w/end (strategically selected before a rare trip to the theatre to see Gone Girl!) and the computer screen shots in that film look absolutely ancient today. But back to Evilspeak and despite the aging technology, the theme of a kid being bullied is as fresh as ever and the film is enjoyable for the revenge unleashed by Cooper-Smith - and boy those kids deserved it !