Casual horror fans may not be familiar with early 80s horror release, Evilspeak. At first glance, it’s a B-movie that mixes Stephen King’s Carrie with bits of leftover 70s occult and early techno-horror. The star, Clint Howard – director Ron Howard’s brother – was best known the children’s series Gentle Ben. But Evilspeak found some notoriety when it made its way on to the UK’s Video Nasties list. Arguably, the movie’s Satanic themes had something to do with its spot on the list. But there’s some grisly gore that probably caught censors’ attention, too. So is Evilspeak just a bad Carrie rip-off? Or is it a ‘so bad, it’s good’ movie that stands on its own.
Several hundred years ago, on the shores of Spain, the Catholic Church banished the Satanic-worshiping Father Esteban. In the present day, awkward outcast Stanley Coopersmith struggles to fit in with other cadets at the West Andover military academy. While cleaning the church cellar, he finds a secret room that once belonged to the same banished Father Esteban. Amongst the black magic artifacts, Coopersmith finds old Satanic texts and Esteban’s diary, which he translates on the school computer. Pushed too far by his peers and teachers, Coopersmith makes an unholy pact for revenge.
Evilspeak Mixes Occult, Social Outcast, and Techno-Horror into a Strange Midnight Movie
On the surface, Evilspeak is a ‘dog’s breakfast’ of a horror movie. Writer and director Eric Weston and co-writer Joseph Garofalo dutifully follow the social outcast narrative particularly popular amongst 70s and 80s horror. Nearly an hour is spent with poor Stanley Coopersmith as he’s tormented by peers and teachers alike. Though it’s pacing is a bit deliberate for a B-movie, Evilspeak fills the void with plenty of weirdness. In addition to overt references to black magic and Satanic rites, you’ll find not one but several demonic pigs. And Evilspeak boasts one of the more ridiculous uses of the ‘computers can do anything’ trope in film history.
Though it’s pacing is a bit deliberate for a B-movie, Evilspeak fills the void with plenty of weirdness.
In spite of its seemingly derivative setup, Evilspeak benefits from the weirdness mentioned above. The movie has that kind of midnight movie vibe that one seems to only be able to achieve accidentally. Yes, some of the practical gore effects look like what you’d expect to find in a low-budget 80s horror movie. More often than not, however, they hold up quite well. At the movie’s midpoint, the shower scene involving the demonic pigs is quite brutal. And Evilspeak’s finale is a gory helping of revenge served to Coopersmith’s bullies. In fact, Weston and Garofalo’s use of the computer often feels like an unnecessary distraction from the movie’s better idiosyncratic bits.
Evilspeak Includes the Right Elements for Its Revenge Algorithm
Part of the entertainment value of revenge and social outcast horror movies is in the catharsis of seeing the loner strike back. Though it’s a simple formula, a few things need to be in place for it to work. First and foremost, you need a suitably pathetic social outcast who also elicits sympathy. Evilspeak definitely gets this part right casting Clint Howard as the hopeless Stanley Coopersmith. Today, Howard (3 From Hell, Halloween) is a recognizable character actor with a long list of credits. Not surprisingly, Howard ensures that his Coopersmith remains sympathetic to the audience despite all of his shortcomings.
Stephen King understood how awful teens – and sometimes teachers – can be to one another. Both Carrie and Christine used teen bullying to varying degrees of effectiveness.
But a decent social outcast horror movie needs suitable villains. Stephen King understood how awful teens – and sometimes teachers – can be to one another. Both Carrie and Christine used teen bullying to varying degrees of effectiveness. By and large, Coopersmith’s bullies are a pretty interchangeable lot. Still they’re effectively slimy enough to make their comeuppance satisfying. And the adult bullies – which includes the seasoned RG Marshall (Predator, Children of the Corn) – are arguably more reprehensible. All of this means that Evilspeak satisfies the basic emotional components needed to make its revenge story work.
Evilspeak Not a Technically Good Movie, But It Still Computes
At face value, Evilspeak isn’t a very good movie on any objective measure. Just the premise alone is ridiculous. Yet somehow the movie works as a brutal B-movie version of Carrie and other social outcast horror outings. Despite following much of the same blueprint as other revenge horror movies, Evilspeak is bizarre enough to stand out. Clint Howard makes for the perfect sympathetic outcast. His bullies are suitably despicable. And the gore effects are shocking and mostly hold up. Weston’s decision to play the whole thing seriously – juxtaposing the inherent silliness of the concept – results in a distinctly midnight movie vibe.