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Blu-ray Review: 'Evilspeak'

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The Film:

Just about everyone is familiar with Stephen King’s classic novel “Carrie,” in which a young woman is picked on as a social outcast at her school, that is until she utilizes her incredible psychic abilities in order to seek revenge. Now imagine the main character being a young man at a military academy, at which he summons the evil powers of Satan in order to exact his retribution, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what “Evilspeak” is like. The young man is Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard), an orphan at a military school who is constantly picked on, particularly because of his lousy soccer skills. While helping clean out the basement of the chapel, he comes across some old rooms containing books from an ancient satanic order headed by Father Esteban. Using Esteban’s personal journal and a computer program, Coopersmith attempts to summon the powers of Satan so that he can get back at his fellow cadets who have caused him so much misery.

From that description, you’d probably conclude that there’s not a whole lot going on in this film, and that would be a very accurate conclusion. Most of the film is dedicated to showing us how miserable life is for Coopersmith while at the academy, followed by him taking a very long time to summon the evil powers he seeks. In fact, not much happens throughout the entire story until the final 15 minutes or so, but it’s nothing that’s worth the 75-minute slog to get there. The story also makes less and less sense as it goes along. It starts off pretty normal, with an easy understanding of Coopersmith wanting to get revenge on some bullies, but when this magical computer program enters the picture, things get a little out of hand. While he’s trying to summon the powers, it randomly responds to what’s happening around it by killing someone getting in Coopersmith’s way in addition to responding in real time to the ceremony that he must conduct. I believe we’re supposed to believe that the program is “Esteban 2.0” with the number of times his name flashes across the computer screen, but that, like much of this film, doesn’t make much sense.

This is not to mention the extremely silly parts that have a secretary at the academy trying to remove a fancy ornament from the front of Esteban’s journal, which happens to make nearby pigs go insane and eat people. Some of the cast claim that the film is a comedy, and while some of it is over-the-top in that fashion, it’s a little hard to swallow that the premise is meant to be comedic, making it seem like more of an excuse to cover up the movie’s nonsensical portions, which only continue to pile up as the film progresses. “Evilspeak” may provide a laugh or two, but it’s too easily noticeable that there’s just not much here, resulting in an empty film that feels stretched beyond its means.

Video/Audio:

“Evilspeak” makes its Blu-ray debut in a 1.78:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that was supervised and approved by director/co-producer Eric Weston. There is some grain noticeable in the opening scenes, but as the film goes on, the picture becomes remarkably clear for a low-budget film that’s over 30 years old. In fact, it’s so clear that you can easily see the wires suspending Clint Howard as he “floats” around the chapel in the final scene. The DTS-HD Master Audio has been given equally special treatment. Every little sound has been restored, making the soundtrack sound as if it were new again. Overall, it’s doubtful that the film has looked or sounded this good since 1981.

Special Features:

The following extras are included on the disc:

The Making of Evilspeak

A Look at the Special Effects

Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Producer Eric Weston

Interviews with Cast Members Joseph Cortese, Clint Howard, Haywood Nelson, Claude Earl Jones, Richard Moll, and Don Stark

Given that all of these special features are rather similar, it makes more sense to talk about them as a whole rather than individually. As usual, Shout! Factory has outdone themselves by putting together a fascinating collection of extras that feature the cast and crew reminiscing about the making of the film. From how the cast got their roles to the director’s personal musings to how the special effects were done, just about everything you could possibly want to know about the film has been included here in what amounts to nearly three hours of supplementary material.

Conclusion:

While the restoration is splendid and the special features are very in-depth, it’s all been done for a film that wasn’t particularly worthy of such attention. It’s a silly film with a number of gaping holes in it, which no amount of polishing can cover up. It feels as though Weston and his co-writer, Joseph Garofalo, had an ending planned out, but they didn’t have enough material for a feature to arrive at that point, causing them to have to stall until they finally got to their big climax. It’s an idea that might have worked had it been 30 minutes shorter, and if they had tried to have it make a little more sense, but ultimately it ends up becoming just another forgettable horror flick from the decade that produced an enormous multitude of them.

Score: 2.5/5

Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Four, The Legend of Hercules, Dead Shadows, Sorcerer, Copperhead, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Best of Bogart Collection, Beneath, American Hustle, Kill Your Darlings, The Slumber Party Massacre, Inside Llewyn Davis, In Fear, Oldboy (2013), Cold Comes the Night, Gravity

Now playing in theaters: The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Draft Day, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nymphomaniac: Volume Two, Nymphomaniac: Volume One, Bad Words

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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