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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Eric Weston
Cast:
Clint Howard, RG Armstrong, Joe Cortese, Don Stark, Richard Moll
Writing Credits:
Eric Weston and Joseph Garofalo

Tagline:
Remember the little kid you used to pick on? Well, he's a big boy now.

Synopsis:
Life sucks for Stanley Coppersmith, a teenage outcast who’s bullied by everyone at a strict military academy. When Stanley discovers the crypt of a 16th Century Satanist beneath the chapel, he creates a computerized Black Mass that unleashes unholy revenge upon his tormentors. Now, all hell is about to break loose!

MPAA:
Rated R

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $24.97
Release Date: 5/13/2014

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Eric Weston
• “Satan’s Pigs and Severed Heads: The Making of Evilspeak” Featurette
• “Effects Speak with Allan A. Apone” Featurette
• Cast Interviews
• Trailer


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Evilspeak (1981)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 12, 2014)

For a slice of supernatural horror from the early 1980s, we head to 1981’s Evilspeak. Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard) studies as a cadet at a military academy, but he doesn’t enjoy his time there. The other students – as well as teachers and staff - pick on nerdy Stanley and make his life unpleasant.

Eventually Stanley locates an ancient book of Satanic material written by Spanish medieval priest Father Esteban (Richard Moll). Captivated by what he reads, Stanley uses the book in conjunction with a computer to summon the forces of evil and get revenge on his tormentors.

With two separate potential threads – Stanley’s life and the Father Esteban backstory– one might expect plenty of plot material throughout Evilspeak. One might expect wrong, as the movie skimps on much more than basics. It grabs its two premises, sets them up quickly and that’s about that.

Not that this means Evilspeak moves at a brisk pace, as instead, it takes a while to get where it wants to go in terms of horror elements. Sure, we find a little gore in the prologue that opens the movie, but after that, we need to wait quite some time before Stanley launches into his satanic crusade.

Theoretically, I should like that choice. I think modern movies tend to rush too much and avoid the story/character background that’d make them more involving. Shouldn’t I be happy with a film that allows its tale to develop in a gradual manner?

Sure, but not when it seems to dilly-dally and fails to use that running time in a particularly productive manner. Granted, Evilspeak tops another obscure 1981 horror flick in that manner, as Final Exam made us wait a ridiculous amount of time to get to the point.

In this case, Evilspeak manages to build in a gradual manner without the same sense of perpetual tedium. When I watched Exam, I felt like it progressed slowly because the filmmakers needed to stretch it to feature length and didn’t know what else to do, whereas here, I think the movie extends its set-up because its creators feel this will deliver a more effective story.

And maybe they’re right – I can’t complain to a severe degree about the film’s theoretical slowness. Nonetheless, I think it would work better if it managed to pick up the pace. Whatever added tension we get from the pacing falters because of potential boredom; the movie doesn’t fill the running time with enough interesting material to sustain us.

Once we get to the action, it doesn’t do much to redeem the rest of it. Actually, some of that material boasts decent impact, but other scenes turn laughable. In particular, the sight of vicious boars who attack a naked woman doesn’t inspire fright; it just seems silly. (The actress’s bad boob job doesn’t help.)

The acting won’t win any awards either. Clint Howard maintained a long career for someone who couldn’t act. He gets the nerdy side of Stanley right but can’t do much else with the part, as he usually resembles little more than an over-eager chipmunk. When required to present an emotion beyond “spazzy nerd”, he falters – and his “spazzy nerd” doesn’t work that well either.

I don’t want to come down too hard on Evilspeak, as I do think it fares better than a lot of other horror films from its era. At least it gives us more than the usual slasher cheese, and it does attempt a real story beyond “maniac chops up a bunch of people”. The movie comes with more substance than the average effort in its genre.

These positives aren’t quite enough to make Evilspeak genuinely good, however. Though the flick shows potential and occasionally delivers interesting moments, it ends up as a bit too slow and a bit too inconsistent to be a strong effort.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

Evilspeak appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t a bad image given its age, but it came with more problems than I’d like.

Print flaws became the dominant issue. From start to finish, I saw a mix of specks and marks. These didn’t overwhelm, but they showed up on a frequent basis and created distractions.

Sharpness remained decent. Most of the movie showed acceptable delineation; while matters never became particularly precise, they seemed reasonably well-defined. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes.

Colors were adequate. Though the hues lacked great vivacity, they showed passable clarity. Blacks were reasonably dark, and shadows presented acceptable smoothness. The print flaws were the biggest concern, but even without them, this would’ve remained an average image.

When we moved to the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural 2.0 soundtrack, it showed its age but usually sounded decent. Dialogue was acceptable, as only occasional edginess affected the lines. Speech could’ve been more natural, but the lines seemed okay.

Music wasn’t particularly bold, but the score and songs showed reasonable clarity and vivacity. Effects seemed clean and without substantial distortion; though they didn’t have much kick, they reproduced the material well. While nothing here dazzled, the mix held up fine for a 33-year-old mono track.

We get a decent mix of extras here, and we open with an audio commentary from producer/director Eric Weston. Accompanied by moderator Bill Olson, we get a running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, sets and locations, effects and stunts, editing and ratings concerns, and other areas.

At times, the commentary gives us a good look at the production, but unfortunately, the track often hits snags. In particular, Weston spends a lot of time on an overview of computer technology circa 1981, little of which bears relevance as a topic related to the creation of the film.

This eventually leads to a long discussion of changes in movie effects and capabilities since 1981, which means a lot of criticism of modern-day reliance on computer graphics. Hey, I’m not a big fan of CG myself, but I don’t think a commentary that whines about those elements for minutes and minutes bears much appeal.

I also feel Olson becomes too active a participant. I think a moderator should be there to facilitate the filmmaker’s comments, whereas Olson takes over the track too much of the time – especially during his diatribes against computer effects. The commentary still manages to provide some movie-related insights, but it can be a tough listen due to its many off-topic moments.

Next comes a documentary called Satan’s Pigs and Severed Heads: The Making of Evilspeak. It goes for 27 minutes, 48 seconds and features actors Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Richard Moll, Loren Lester and Lynn Hancock. The show looks at how various participants came to the project, working with Weston, experiences during the shoot, and the film’s legacy. I’m surprised only performers show up here – especially because another area of the disc offers “Cast Interviews”, so I’m not sure why these clips weren’t just part of that section.

Despite the limited scope of the piece, the actors offer some nice thoughts about the flick. We get some nice insights into their experiences and learn a bit along the way. This doesn’t become a detailed examination of the film, but it’s pretty good.

In the 14-minute, 37-second Effects Speak, we hear from special effects makeup artist Allan A. Apone. He chats about his work for the film and challenges that he encountered. Apone provides a lively, informative look at his creations.

In addition to the movie’s trailer, we locate Cast Interviews. We get sequences with Clint Howard (11:39), Don Stark (10:09) and Joe Cortese (6:55). Across these, we find notes about how they came to the project, thoughts about actors and performances, and other experiences related to the movie. The conversations usually work pretty well, though Cortese talks more about other projects, which makes his piece the weakest.

Evilspeak shows promise and it occasionally becomes an effective horror film, but it lacks consistency. Still, even with its ups and downs, it’s better than many of its peers. The Blu-ray provides average picture and audio and a decent set of supplements. Nothing here excels, but I suspect fans will like this rendition of the film.

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