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John’s Horror Corner: Evilspeak (1981), Clint Howard summons demons, flies with a sword and explodes heads with his super computer.

November 12, 2017

MY CALL:  Overall, this is one of those B-movies that makes an awesome bad movie night while still holding up in to many of its zany early 80s peers.  The story is stupid but the effects are just entertaining enough to make up for the sluggish pacing.  MORE MOVIES LIKE EvilspeakI’m reminded of such odd fare as The Keep (1983), The Church (1989) and The Unholy (1988).

Not sure how—as I’m prone to enjoy obscure, low budget, and purportedly “bad” movies—but I somehow never knew about this movie until Amazon recommended it.  With a humble budget under $1 million, this may just be director Eric Weston’s (Hyenas) finest triumph—not that this is saying much.  My sole acceptance to explore this was that it stars one of B-cinema’s (and mainstream’s) greatest small role icons: Clint Howard (Leprechaun 2, Lords of Salem, Ice Cream Man, Ticks, Carnosaur).

Historical flashbacks of some evil monk tell of exile, gem-encrusted swords, and ritual sacrifice of a (naturally) naked woman.  We learn a bit about some sort of ambiguous curse…but the story is all over the place and no sense will ever come of it.

This poor guy gets driven pretty far by those bullies…

Then we return to present day to meet Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard), a military school cadet perpetually bullied by his classmates and who is mocked for being an orphan and a welfare case enrollment.  And it’s not just the students, even the faculty hates him.  What is it about high school coaches in the 80s…were they all evil?  The guy was plotting with a student bully that “if something were to happen to [Coopersmith]…” just to win more soccer games!

Many efforts are made to capture a dark occult atmosphere (e.g., the introductory flashbacks), but the film really only succeeds in the first cellar scene where Coopersmith encounters a cobwebbed time-forgotten library, lights about 1000 candles, leafs through cursed tomes best left untouched, and then an evil zombie fetus does…something that may or may not ever matter.  But no worries, he leaves with perhaps the most infernal of the entombed books (for his own study), which haphazardly ends up in the hands of the colonel-headmaster’s secretary.  This is another of many turns in the plot that goes nowhere and makes no sense.

Using his oddly intelligent HAL-like computer and a vastly superior 1981 version of Google’s Satanism program, Coopersmith follows dutiful instructions to summon a demonic spirit to exact his revenge. The story and rules are a bit dodgy, but what were you really expecting?  Sometimes the formless demonic spirit works on its own, it really likes controlling pigs, and eventually it possesses Coopersmith (or imbues him with infernal power, I’m really not sure).

The special effects were nothing special at all for the majority of the film (i.e., the first hour, but such is typical of lower budget horror).  Honestly, the first 60 minutes were rather boring excepting a few scenes.  A horribly fake naked mannequin is decapitated, a weak animated fetus moves around, there are some unimpressive man-eating pig attacks (attacking a naked woman, clearly to punish her for her needless exhibitionism as she undressed in front of a fireplace), and Coopersmith gets loads of instructions from his oddly sentient computer (like Latin translations, potion ingredients and real-time corrections when he does something wrong in the ritual…WTF?).

A lot happens in the end of the movie.  Coopersmith flies around like a sword-wielding fallen angel, there’s blood and fire everywhere, and people are being slaughtered in a church.  It’s zany.  The highlights of the effects (pretty much in the last 15 minutes) were a gory ripped-out heart and all the various beheadings.  A man’s head is twisted 180 degrees, another guy’s head basically explodes into gory chunks, and there are several sword decapitations.  I giggled a lot—they were a delightful mess of corn syrup and latex chunks festooning the set.  I giggled more at the crass campiness—a few nude scenes and a “Miss Heavy Artillery” pageant.

Overall, this is one of those classic B-movies that makes an awesome bad movie night while still holding up in production value to many (although more average) of its early 80s peers.  The story is stupid but the effects are just entertaining enough to make up for the sluggish pacing before everyone dies in the end.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Bret permalink
    November 12, 2017 3:52 pm

    Yeah it’s safe to say I like many have never heard of this film, nor should I be surprised after reading over your review.
    Bad movie night…totally agree to that!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 12, 2017 3:59 pm

      But, dude, the last 12 minutes of this are bonkerstastic epicness!

  2. November 16, 2017 11:08 pm

    I thought this film was more widely known. I used to watch it on HBO all the time back in the early 80s when I was a wee lad. Anyway, it’s silly fun with just the right elements to make it memorable.

    Oddly enough, the subject came up this very day of movies being dated by the references they make (e.g., You’ve Got Mail). I cited this film for its celebration of the “computer geek.” Now none of us can live without computers.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 17, 2017 8:18 am

      Often I find that some of the “obscure” movies I saw when I was younger (and that just seemed to be “another movie”), but that never received a DVD release, nestle themselves into the obscurity of today. I have actually RE-discovered movies that I thought I had never seen, only to realize I had, in fact, seen them…probably in the 90s (movies from the 80s).

      • November 17, 2017 8:57 pm

        My situation is with all the direct-to-video movies i watched in the early 90s (The Unnamable, Demon Wind, The Unholy being just a few example), yet I have no recollection of the content. I see them all coming out on Blu ray now, and fans getting excited, and I’m struggling to remember anything other than the title and the video box. Early 80s movies, on the other hand, are etched in my brain like stone tablets.


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