A military cadet who happens to be a social outcast taps into a way to summon demons and cast spells on his tormentors through his computer.
Oh man…The Black Saint is feeling old tonight faithful acolytes. Long weekend. Lots of pain. Little to no fun, for me anyway. And to top it off, I’m reviewing a movie that I remember seeing in a theater back in 1981! I’m not going to divulge my age to you but I was old enough to see it without ID (What am I talking about? You didn’t need ID on 42nd Street!). The movie is called “Evilspeak” & I like it now as much as I liked it 30(!) years ago.
The film opens with a quote: And Satan said to the Man of God…”What would you do tomorrow if you allowed me to die today? What vocation would you pursue if my name disappeared?” Kahlil Gibran. Interesting words to open the film with indeed. I remembered being confused by them because I had no idea what they had to do with what I thought the movie was about. I found out soon enough. We are then taken to a scene on a rock encrusted beach in Spain. Black hooded Lorenzo Esteban (Richard Moll) is surrounded by a White hooded priest & his followers and told that he is banished from Spain & he & his followers are condemned until their “Souls have been cleansed of all sin”.
All the while Esteban glares at them while holding a really long sword. A really long shiny sword. He is advised to “Abandon his pursuit of evil or suffer eternal damnation. Nothing can protect you from the wrath of God or the avenging angel” And to top it all off, ole’ White robed priest warns Esteban that “The next time you see me it will be as your redeemer or your executioner”. Esteban promptly spits on the dude & walks towards his Black hooded flock, Draws a pentagram into the sand & works the posse into a frenzy chanting “Satanas” as he has himself a little BBQ with who I assume to be a virgin. She willingly gets down on her knees as he slices her head off.
Cut to a modern day military academy soccer game taking place. Young Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard) has once again flubbed a play which leads to a defeat & in the locker room he faces the wrath of his teammates. His one real friend, Kowalski (Heywood Nelson) tries to take up for him but the coach doesn’t like Stanley much either. He only plays because the school mandates that everyone gets to participate in the sports program. But the coach has a plan for that. On family day Stanley is relegated to clean up the cellar since he is an orphan & gets no visitors.
He goes about his business & finds the drunken handyman Sarge (R.G. Armstrong) angrily asking him questions about what he’s doing “Down Here”. The Reverend Jameson (Joe Cortese) appears to explain to Sarge what’s going on & gets Stanley off the hook. He then goes back upstairs to escort a young woman through a tour of the grounds. It turns out that the founder of the order that built the establishment was good old Lorenzo Esteban (His portraits are all about the grounds). Meanwhile in the cellar, Stanley finds some loose brickwork that when pulled down leads him to a room filled with bottled specimens of what look like fetuses & jars filled with something that just ain’t right. But more importantly, he finds dust encrusted books. Books filled with Satanic incantations & the like. Stanley tucks one under his shirt & makes away with it.
Stanley awakens from a nightmare the next morning featuring Esteban & one of the fetuses climbing out of it’s jar. He’s late for class & gets scolded by the teacher (who sounds a LOT like he’s trying to pull off a Nazi era German accent). But all Stanley cares about is his newfound acquisition…the book he had taken from the cellar the night before. Here’s where “Evilspeak” tries to do something different with it’s fairly shopworn premise. In the early 80’s, personal computers were still a bit of a novelty for most. Not a lot of people could afford them, they weren’t very powerful & they were pretty friggin’ big too. But the school has a computer lab filled with computers & printers & such. Stanley decides to take his little black book and type in the Latin words into the computer to have it translate them. One of the passages he gets is “They think to kill me. But Satan is my salvation. His magic is mine forever. I will return. No matter what they do, I will return.” Computers play a big part in this movie & it was a fairly novel idea at the time. It helped the movie to stand out a bit from other similar movies at the time. Usually we only saw computers in big sci-fi movies, and they were usually room sized as well. To see them in a smaller, horror film was interesting to say the least.
One of Stanley’s duties is to fed the hogs that live on the academy grounds. A bit earlier Stanley had left his book of incantations in the Colonel’s office during a browbeating. His secretary picked it up & tries to pry off the jewel encrusted pentagram on it’s cover. As she struggles with it, the hogs that Stanley is attending to begin to go into a frenzy & break out of their sty & attack him. He barely escapes with his life. And now he has to find that book…in the meantime though he can still go to the computer lab & research “The keys to Satan’s kingdom”. Stanley is hooked, so hooked that he manages to take a computer down to the cellar room with all of the Satanic artifacts & do his research in private. He types in a prayer to Satan & finds that he needs some items to perform a black mass (my favorite ingredient…unholy water. What’s unholy water I ask?) Luckily for him all of the ingredients are located on the shelves of the room. He gets them all together & begins his unholy incantations. But nothing seems to be working…yet. He needs a “Consecrated Host”, a sacrifice, to complete the ceremony. He gets one in an unfortunate manner & then the sh*t really hits the fan.
Director Eric Weston’s “Evilspeak” is still a pretty good little shocker and casting Clint Howard As Stanley was brilliant. Always a funny looking kind of actor Howard is always featured in his brother Ron’s directorial efforts but never really broke out on his own. But his career has been a steady one. You never know when you’re gonna see his face & then BOOM! there he is. He has a “Hound-Dog” aura about him in this film, you just feel sorry for him as soon as he appears on the screen.
He gives a very good performance in the film. As do the rest of the cast but since the focus is on Stanley, we really don’t get to learn too much about the other roles. Excepting for the fact that they all treat Stanley bad. It’s always cool to see Richard Moll in horror films from the 80’s since he basically was always typecast as some sort of wizard or alien due to his size & the way he could grimace just right into the camera when needed. He was an imposing presence in any film he was featured in. As the film progresses, Stanley gets more & more disheveled and just plain gnarly looking. Is it the power of Satan or is he just losing his marbles? A lot of one & a bit of the other.
The biggest problem with the movie are the practical makeup effects. Most of them are just really badly done & obvious enough to get upset over actually but they didn’t kill the movie for me…they just cheapened it a bit. I can’t tell you any more about the film without spoiling it for you (The Black Saint Says: NO SPOILERS!) What I can tell you is that Stanley & his porcine brothers get some well deserved revenge against his tormentors in a pretty cool way that’s both scary & exciting. But as most of these movies go, it doesn’t end well for Stanley…or does it?
“Evilspeak” gets a solid three shrouds from The Black Saint. If it were to be released today I might’ve given it 2 shrouds but it is a child of it’s decade & should be reviewed as such. You could do worse on a slow movie night than this for sure. It’s well worth a watch just to see what your lord & master was spending his shekels on 30 years ago. Damn….I’m getting old.