Cast: Clint Howard, R. G. Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Don Stark
Director: Eric Weston
Nutshell: Computer Nerd turns to satanism to get revenge from his tormentors
“fast moving tale will keep you gripped throughout” Video Nasties
“slightly disgusting” Creature Features
“formulaic to the point of tedium” See No Evil
“I’ve got an evil word for this movie and it begins with “s”” Horror Films of the 80’s
“tongue in cheek horror works its own peculiar spell – recommended” Blockbuster Video
“Turkey” Video Movies Guide
Clint Howard of 70’s TV show Gentle Ben fame is also best known as being the brother of Ron Howard, celebrated Hollywood A-list director. Clint hasn’t quite made the A-list in his acting career yet has managed to carve out a niche for himself in a long and prolific career appearing in mostly insignificant bit roles in plenty of largely forgettable fodder. Once in a while big brother Ron has thrown him a meaty role helping from fading away from the scene altogether.
Back in the early 80’s though Gentle Ben had grown up into a podgy not particularly attractive young man whose agent must have been guiding him to seek character roles rather than lead ones. Then in 1981, during the post Halloween horror boom, Clint Howard landed his first major role as an adult in the central role of Coopersmith in the film Evilspeak which was to subsequently gain a fair amount of notoriety for landing up on the British Censors Obscene “Video Nasties” List for a short while before better sense prevailed.
The film begins with a scene from the Spanish Inquisition where evil Satanist Esteban, about to be banished from the land forever, vows to return for revenge. We move to the present (80’s) modern day America at a West Andover Military Academy where we find that the school’s soccer team manages to lose yet another game due to Coopersmith’s blundering idiocy. The rest of the team resent super-Nerd Coopersmith’s presence on the team regardless of school policy that means every person must play on the team for at least half the game on a regular basis. The coach, as frustrated as his team hints to the complaining lads that though he can’t kick Coopersmith off the team, maybe if the boy was to meet with some accident that rendered him incapable of playing? The dim jocks take the hint and start to avidly plan the nerd’s demise.
Meanwhile Coopersmith turns up late for class one day and is banished to the pig sty and then the cellar for cleaning duties as a punishment but later while rummaging around below he finds a door to another realm – a realm of evil that he enters wholeheartedly. The audience learns that the Academy was built on the grounds where the diabolical Satanist Esteban had once flourished! As Coopersmith delves deeper into the depths of the cellar he finds Esteban’s Idiots Guide to Satanism and is drawn to a computer that seems to be beckoning him. Then Coopersmith finds that through the book and the computer he can perform a ritual that will bring Esteban back not quite realizing the horrendous consequences that this resurrection would bring.
The film recalls elements of Carrie and even Damien Omen 2 the way it unfolds yet it is far more bizarre than either with some truly tacky yet strangely effective special effects, a fantastically resplendent demon goat head, some deliciously gratuitous gore and a simmering undercurrent of rare nastiness including the slaying of a little puppy.
Coopersmith’s revenge gains momentum as his interaction with the Esteban infested computer shows him the path to quick retribution. The pretty secretary of the Academy’s principal who attempts to prise off an emblem from Esteban’s book gets her comeuppance when a pack of particularly rotund wild boars decide to have her as an evening snack. The attack scene is well handled and though there isn’t too much evidence of teeth on flesh, due to the quick editing and the vileness of the beasts who perform their roles with admirable enthusiasm, it seems suitably savage. There is one delicious scene at the end of the attack when one of the boars drags off a sliver of tendon from the ravaged remains of what had recently been a pert and efficient secretary.
The mayhem reaches fever pitch in the final grand retribution when Coopersmith finally does succeed in invoking the spirit of Esteban and is possessed by sheer evil. In a scene of pure horror delirium he comes smashing through the walls of the Academy chapel, levitating, spewing venom and carrying a sword which he uses to hack and chop and decapitate his detractors with unbridled glee.
Evilspeak was derided by critics upon release for being a screaming dud yet when one looks back at the drivel that was being churned out during the horror wave of the early 80’s, it seems to stand apart from the crowd. Firstly it wasn’t yet another of the masked slasher variety which came as some respite in the wake of Myers and Jason impersonators. Secondly the direction contains a certain visual flair is certainly competent and the film reasonably well paced. Thirdly there is enough gore and nastiness on display to satisfy shock seekers yet on the whole what the film lacks is that it really isn’t scary enough and also that the plot follows a totally predictable path lacking any true surprises or twists along the way which could have rendered it a little different from the Nerd takes revenge worm-that-turns tale.
The film plays just a tad like one of the spate of straight to video cheapies that were flooding the market in the early Video era even though it was actually a theatrical release. In the UK the film managed to gain some infamy as it was listed in the notorious Obscene Films list for a few months before they realized that there really wasn’t much too object about. However some of the gore was trimmed for the films release in the US as well as in Europe especially a scene where the gnarled old cellar keeper rips the heart out of a student’s chest!
Great to see Charles Tyner virtually continuing his epic role from Harold and Maude as the proud and prudish head of the Academy. Evilspeak though no classic is certainly an oddity of its era and one worth checking out for the avid horror film buff with its ability to surprise despite the predictable nature of the storyline. A weird and strangely involving tale of twisted horror with a decidedly nasty edge.