Evilspeak (1981)

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In 15th Century Spain, a monk named Estaban and his followers are excommunicated from the church for being devil worshipers. As a final epic FU to the inquisitors, he sacrifices some poor, nameless lass on a beach.

Cut to present day and we’re introduced to poor social outcast Stanley Coopersmith. Stanley is not only unpopular among his peers at the prestigious military academy he attends, but also mercilessly bullied by four of his fellow classmates. His lack of fitting in also gets him loads of nasty punishment details and on the shit-list of just about every teacher at school, the Colonel in charge of the school and even the Reverend at the academy. His most recent punishment: Clearing out the large and long neglected cellar space below the schools chapel. While he’s down there, he stumbles across a hidden room filled with a throne, old texts and the tomb of the long dead Estaban. Finally fed up and pushed to the edge by his tormentors, Stanley now finds himself armed with a slew of demonic texts to read through at his leisure. Using a little bit of technological help he’s now determined to summon forth something, anything really, that can can wreak unholy revenge on his behalf.

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In a twist that will surprise no absolutely one, it turns out Apple II computers are a conduit for evil.

Oh, satanic themed horror movies, you were once all the rage not so long ago. Sure, the random demon might pop up now and then to harass some hapless homeowners, but nowadays your theme seems more quaint compared to the horrors that humans can unleash on other humans without the help of the supernatural. Although, honestly, Evilspeak has a little bit of both going on.

You see, before the fires of eternal damnation even have a chance to show themselves, our lead in Evilspeak, Stanley, is essentially in his own personal version of hell. His parents died in a horrific car crash not too long before the movie begins, and for some reason he was taken in by this military academy, an elite establishment that is used to mold the young male populace of the societal elite into patriotic killing machines. No one there likes him, no one there respects him and even the people who seemed to have viewed him as a charity case and let him into the school in the first place don’t even seem to want him there. Nor does Stanley want to be there. He’s shy, gittery, soft-spoken and seems more in-tune with computers than he does with people. If he had been taken in by a nice technical school than he’d have been fine. But no, the poor traumatized kid gets yelled at and harassed all day by basically everyone he encounters, including the Reverend at the school. Everyone in this movie seems to go out of their way too be an ass to this kid. They harass him, sabotage his homework, steal his clothes, beat him, tell him he needs man up and to get over his parents death….Poor kid’s life is a mess. And all that was before the bullies found and brutally killed his puppy. Oh! And he was almost sexually assaulted by one of the adults! To be perfectly honest, it should be more surprising that he didn’t turn to Satan sooner.

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But lucky for Stanley, he finds a Latin inscribed text detailing the way to sell your soul to the devil. Except Stanley doesn’t really know Latin all that well, it being a dead language and all. What he does know is computers. So he steals one of the school computers (yes, an Apple), hides it down in the cellar he’s cleaning up, hooks it up with what I assume is one of the longest power extensions known to man, and uses what must have been a very early alpha version of Google Translate to transcribe the text. It also seems to have a really early version of the internet hooked up to it as well, because when Stanley asks it questions about what he’ll need to perform the Black Mass ritual the computer just…knows somehow? That, or there was some really early Satan Worshiping software for Macs that I am unaware of.

Anyway, how it knows that stuff doesn’t matter, because eventually Stanley gets far enough into the ceremony to release the soul of the monk Estaban from his eternal slumber. And because he’s evil the monk immediately goes and possesses the body of… The Apple II.

Yeah, I thought for sure he’d go for the flesh-and-blood kid, but maybe he figured the computer was preferable to that dorky looking face.

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Behold the most advanced, high-tech graphics 1981 had
to offer, in all their blurry glory.

Regardless, Estaban then guides the kid through the rest of the ritual. Slowly. Like, really slowly. It’s really one of the parts of the movie that I found a little annoying, because for some reason it just takes him forever to tell the kid that he needs a human blood sacrifice to finish the ritual. Maybe he just assumed Stanley would know that because back in his day it was common knowledge. I mean, hell, even I know that and I’m not a Satanist. Maybe he just wasn’t in a rush since he’s already waited 400 years. Or maybe the writers realized that in order to pad out the movie to feature length they had to stretch out this important bit past the point of stretching and make Stanley really, really, really miserable to make the climax seem worth it.

They didn’t, but like I said, feature length.

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He’s so far gone he’s trying to get it to download Chrome,
poor dear.

Speaking of the climax, it is, most understandably, the best part of the film. I get the feeling Evilspeak wasn’t made with a very hefty budget, but I can tell that a good chunk of the money they did have went into the last 15 minutes. It’s basically the end of Carrie but with more blood, gore, evil pigs and a better score. Swords are flung, heads roll and innards are torn out and eaten. It’s a glorious, delirious mess and likely a very cathartic experience to anyone who was ever bullied by anyone, for any reason, ever.

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Aaaaand *POP!* goes your brain matter!

There are two other downsides to this film other than the annoyingly slow ‘please get to the point we already know what he needs’ plot. The first is a nasty misogynistic streak. Yes, I know, horror movies are ripe with this affront, but here it just comes across as particularly obvious. An entire subplot was added that involved a female administrative assistant stealing Stanley’s evil book of spells. In any other movie she would have been viewed a hero for keeping Satan’s text out of the anarchists evil hands. But here her whole purpose in the film is to show us she’s a bitch, show some T&A and die an unholy, horrifically painful death. Stanley has absolutely no idea this chick even exists. He has two interactions with her, total. That’s it. He’s not even aware she took his evil, satan book. And when she does die, the book just magically goes back to Stanley and… that’s it. She was solely introduced only to die and take up about 10 minutes of screen time. Sure, you can say that about a lot of women in horror movies, hell, you can say that about a lot of people in horror movies, but in this case her purpose was just too blatant. They could have at least had her annoy the kid or something. Use a little more finesse, movie, is what I’m saying.

The other thing really working against the movie is its conclusion. It’s abrupt, anticlimactic and a set-up for sequel that was obviously never going to happen. I know it was probably going to be hard to top that last revenge scene, but a black screen filled with text  feels lazy even by horror writing standards.

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But even with all that, Evilspeak ends up being a fun little film, though I don’t know if I’d call it ‘good’. It drags on too long, for one, the acting isn’t great and it’s obvious it was pretty low-budget. But it’s also clear that when they did focus, they spent their money wisely. It’s well shot and has decent art direction. The gore is kinda sparse, but when it is there they got their money’s worth. Just about all the characters are complete assholes, even the lead, yet Clint Howard (Stanley) does such a fine job of being both smart, tenacious and pathetic that you still feel sympathy for him, even well after you know his intentions are to open the gates of Hell. The technological angle of Satanism and computer possession adds a bit of a nice twist, even though its not implemented particularly well. Still, for the horror fan, Evilspeak would probably be a good pizza night flick just for those last 15-minutes alone.

Evilspeak is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Michi

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