As a longtime Clint Howard fan I’ll always have a soft spot for
EVILSPEAK, which marked Clint’s first-ever starring role--even if it
is extremely dated and overall quite dumb.
Clint Howard was 21 when he filmed this 1981
production, one of countless splatter fests that followed in the wake of
HALLOWEEN. EVILSPEAK, it must be said, is one of the more unique such
films, being the first I know of to utilize a computer in its narrative.
The film was a surprise hit, earning over $400,000 in
its opening weekend (in limited release), and has since become a sought
after cult item among gorehounds.
At an elite military academy the nerdy Stanley
Coopersmith is bullied by everyone. A group of snooty cadets frequently
gang up on him and the instructors make no effort to disguise their
loathing of Stanley. But then one day Stanley stumbles onto the
centuries-old crypt of an executed Satanist, from which he retrieves an
Stanley uses a computer program to translate the book’s
language, which is actually a bunch of arcane spells. The following
morning Stanley is detained in the headmaster’s office, and the latter’s
bimbo secretary tries to jimmy with the emblem on the book’s
cover--which agitates some pigs in a nearby pen. In the meantime
Stanley, unable to find the book, uses his computer to summon the evil
forces referenced in the text.
The summoning works, unleashing evil forces that among
other things cause a guy’s head to twist all the way around on his neck
and another man to get impaled on a spiked chandelier. The
aforementioned secretary fares even worse, ending up ripped apart by
those restless pigs.
Stanley grows really pissed when he discovers
his beloved puppy has been killed by the bullies. He casts a final
apocalyptic spell that causes mass mayhem in a church where,
conveniently enough, all Stanley’s tormentors are present.
EVILSPEAK was the first film directed by Eric Weston
(who went on to helm seven more features, most recently 2011’s HYENAS),
and cinematically it’s passable. It actually looks pretty good
considering the painfully low budget, and the always watchable Clint
Howard is quite endearing in the lead role.
The unfortunate thing is that Howard’s role is largely
reactive, with seemingly every other shot featuring Clint looking at
someone/thing in shock, sadness or bewilderment. Another unfortunate
element is the script, which takes its sweet time getting to the gory
The head lopping, impalements and heart ripping of the
final 20 minutes are diverting, though hardly as shocking as they
apparently once were; the film was famously cut for its initial release
to avoid an R rating. The 2004 DVD release restores a lot of the excised
footage (much of which is reportedly lost forever), which isn’t
especially novel or shocking by modern standards, and makes one wonder
just what all the shouting was about.
Leisure Investment Company
Director: Eric Weston
Producers: Sylvio Tabet, Eric Weston
Screenplay: Joseph Garofalo, Eric Weston
Cinematography: Irv Goodnoff
Editing: Charles Tetoni
Cast: Clint Howard, R.G. Armstrong, Charles Tyner, Joseph Cortese,
Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Don Stark, Hamilton Camp, Louie
Gravance, Jim Greenleaf