If you took Clint ‘The Ice Cream Man' Howard and cast him as the lead role in a remake of Carrie, you'd more or less have the right idea about where director Eric Weston's 1981 picture Evilspeak was coming from. Borrowing quite liberally from the Stephen King story, this story of a young man in military school who is constantly picked on and made fun of by his peers is still an entertaining little movie, even if it isn't the most original beast to hit the screen.
Howard plays a cadet named Stanley Coopersmith (referred to as "Cooperdick" by his schoolmates), a nerdy guy who can't seem to get a break. He's picked on not only by his peers but by the staff and faculty of the school as well - nothing ever goes right for poor Stanley. When his sub-par soccer skills land him in the basement underneath the local church on campus, Stanley finds a sinister manuscript of Satanic spells. From here he sneaks this book back to his room where he enters the spells and incantations into his high tech Apple computer. Once he runs his finished program, a deceased devil worshiper named Esteban returns to the moral world. From here, and Stanley unleash all the powers of Hell upon his unwitting cohorts, at which point Stanley flies around with a giant sword and commands an army of evil pigs.
Evilspeak does take a little while to get its groove on but once it does, oh baby, Clint Howard proves himself to be the indisputable king of the weirdos. When he levitates in a church sanctuary wielding that giant Highlander around his head, you know this little weasel of a man means business and you'd best not mess with him. Those who do cross Coopersmith soon learn the error of their ways when they end up as pig slop (or worse). In these crazed scenes of carnage, director Eric Weston demonstrates that while he may not be too original in the story department he does know how to be creative with the kill scenes.
The performances here are also a lot of fun. Howard is the real focus of the film and he makes the most of his role. He starts off mellow enough, earning our sympathy and trust, but through the aid of technology and pure, unadulterated evil he soon morphs into a truly oddball monster out for his well-deserved revenge. While the rest of the cast isn't nearly as interesting as the lead and most of the supporting characters are disposable at best, there are some fun bit part players that pop up in this production. Famed character actor R. G. Armstrong pops up here as ‘Sarge' while a very young Don Stark (long before he'd be instantly recognizable for his role on That 70's Show plays Coopersmith's chief nemesis, a cadet named Bubba. None other than Richard Moll (yes, Bull from Night Court) plays Father Estaban with as much scenery chewing enthusiasm as you could hope for and Haywood Nelson, best known as Dwayne on What's Happening plays another cadet named Kowalski. Probably the most surprising guy to see show up in the movie is Lenny Montana, the guy who will be known to countless movie fans as Luca Brasi from The Godfather. The late Claude Earl Jones is also easy to spot here, and the beautiful Lynn Hancock (who would go on to host some fitness DVDs) has a supporting role (in addition to a nude scene and an amazing death scene) here too. Joe Cortese also shows up here, playing a priest who winds up involved in one of the movie's most notorious (and blasphemous) murder set pieces.
In the end though, the only reason you're going to want to watch this one in the first place is to see The Ice Cream Man go batsh*t and mess stuff up. In that regard, though it takes some time to get there, Evilspeak delivers. It should also be noted that the version of the film included on this Blu-ray, like the previous Code Red DVD reissue, is the completely uncut version with all of the excised gore intact.
Evilspeak first arrived on DVD in North America through a decent looking, albeit cut, anamorphic widescreen release from Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2004. Last year, Code Red reissued the movie in its proper uncut form (it was previously released uncut by Anchor Bay UK but never domestically) but on DVD only. For the film's Blu-ray debut, Code Red have teamed up with Shout! Factory's horror line Scream Factory to offer up the film in high definition for the first time. Framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, there's some minor print damage here and there in the form of some small specks but for the most part, the picture is pretty clean. Detail is nice and strong, both in the lighter and darker scenes as well. There doesn't appear to be any noise reduction or edge enhancement to complain about and color reproduction is pretty strong here too.
The English language DTS-HD Mono track on the disc is also pretty solid. There's about as much depth as you could hope for here and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. Dialogue stays clean and clear and easily discernible and the levels are properly mixed. The film's weird score has some nice depth to it as well, and this is a pretty solid track all in all. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
The supplements kick off with an interesting and active commentary track with Eric Weston moderated by Code Red's Bill Olsen. This is a well-paced and interesting talk with Weston (who also co-wrote the film) as he talks about the ideas behind the film, assembling the various cast of recognizable character actors who populate the picture, shooting the film on location in California, some of the effects troubles they ran into, working with pigs on set and quite a bit more.
New to this release is a half hour long documentary on the making of Evilspeak that features some great participation from various cast and production associates. It does a pretty good job of tracing the history of the picture and includes interviews with Haywood Nelson (who talks about how someone on set kept puncturing the tires of his Porsche), with Loren Lester (who discusses how easygoing Clint Howard was) and a few others. Richard Moll talks about some of the other horror films he'd been involved with before this one and then goes on to talk about Evilspeak specifically. Claude Earl Jones shows up to talk about mentoring the younger actors and Lynn Hancock, still beautiful, talks about how she got out of doing full nudity and about her infamous death scene. A separate interview with Special Effects artist Allan Apone is also found on the disc and he talks about how he got into doing effects work and makeup work on feature films and then discusses some of the specifics of his work on this particular feature.
Carried over from the past release are some older interviews with starting with Clint Howard who speaks for about fifteen minutes about his work on this picture, his thoughts on the content and what it was like working with the different cast and crew members involved here. He looks back on the movie pretty fondly and is quite animated and fun to listen to. Joseph Cortese gives us a rundown on how he got into acting, what it was like working with Joe Pesci on Family Enforcer and then provides some details on his work in Evilspeak while Don Stark pops up here too to talk about his character, his infamous death scene, and how involved or not involved he was with a few of the fellow cast members. A trailer for the feature, animated menus (which are a lot louder than the feature for some reason) and chapter selection are also included.
Evilspeak finally gets the Blu-ray release that it deserves thanks to this collaboration between Shout! Factory and Code Red. The movie looks better than it ever has on home video and the additional extras included on this disc really do a fine job of documenting the history of the picture in an interesting way. The audio and video are noticeably better than past editions and fans of crazy eighties horror oddities should consider this one highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.