In the eyes of many of Apple's supporters, Microsoft's Bill Gates is frequently cast as someone akin to the Devil so take pleasure in the shock they'll feel should they ever see Evilspeak. Whether scripted by Steve Ballmer or by a contented user of MS-DOS, Evilspeak places the Devil inside an Apple II computer, from which Satan bides his time before the completion of a black mass allows him to take physical form.
To Satan's credit, however, he does have some smart vector graphics that he can call up at will and although his Photoshop skills are a little rusty - note the bad overlays as Satan chases a possession - he does his best. After all, a few millennia spent in Hell has denied him access to the ninja PC's kept in Heaven where angels doubtless spend their time accessing the image files from the Sodom and Gomorra incident and posting, "g0d 0wnz he11! j35U5 r0x!" on message boards.
Leaving the geek jokes behind, Evilspeak stars Clint Howard, younger brother of Ron, as Coopersmith, who's a put-upon cadet at a military academy and who is regularly bullied by the rest of the soccer team of which he's a part. Not that anyone wants him on the team, it's just that, y'know...school rules. Such bullying has left Coopersmith a physically and emotionally awkward lump of a boy and, as part of a punishment, he's ordered to put the basement underneath the school's crumbling chapel in order. In there and within a crypt, which should be warning enough, Coopersmith finds an old book that crumbles to his touch. By using his computer to translate the passages within the book, Coopersmith finds that it contains writings to call the Devil to appear to him but, in being short of one vital ingredient in the celebration of a black mass - human blood - all Coopersmith summons is, er, a herd of pigs. Devil pigs, mind, but still only pigs...
And yet, those pigs are not the least attractive members of the cast of Evilspeak as cuddling up to one of them on a quiet night in would still be preferable to waking up and finding Clint Howard dribbling onto your pillow. In 1982, when this film was made, an age before teenagers discovered hair gel, showers and the relationship between having clear skin and washing regularly with soap, young people were always ugly but there really is no excuse for someone as monstrous as Clint Howard to have been cast on the business end of a 35mm camera. Looking Howard up, I note that had a starring role on Gentle Ben although it's not clear from the cast list whether he played the bear and endured a full body shave to get this part or was mistakenly cast in that series as a human. Even the token attractive woman - the secretary who undresses for her shower in her living room before strolling through her house naked - wouldn't be anyone's idea of glamour unless you're into the whole Deirdre-Barlow-glasses thing.
But most of all, I've always questioned the whole thing with the Devil, wondering why Satan should ever be bothered with the pathetic, dribbling teens who perform black masses whilst taking a break from masturbating and asking, "D'ya want fries with that?", which are events that often take place concurrently. Surely the Devil must be feeling frustrated, not only for having to spend an eternity in Hell but for also having to work with the likes of Coopersmith, who'd struggle to locate his spine even if it was to be beaten out of him, placed on a table and played like a xylophone by Patrick Moore.
As an example, in one scene, Bubba, who bullies Coopersmith more relentlessly than any other cadet at the military academy, takes his mates, a few beers and a couple of locals girls down to the basement for a party. Finding Coppersmith's toys, his puppy and his computer, they agree to kill the dog and trash the place, which only serves to wake the Devil up from a stray keyboard press...or something. Now, were I the Devil, I'd be watching these guys from inside the Apple II computer and thinking, "Now these are my kind of guys! Kill the dog...and some people and get me out of this computer!" You can only imagine how weary the Devil must be at depending on us humans to assist him taking physical form, leaving Hades from Disney's Hercules, who's forever seen clenching his fists in frustration at us mortals, as the portrayal of the ruler of the Underworld that's likely to bear closest comparison to the real thing, should he actually exist. Were it not such an obviously problematic concept for the Catholic Church, you could say that Satan had the patience of a saint.
That said, when Coopersmith eventually figures out what it is that the Devil wants - the computer screen full of HUMAN BLOOD HUMAN BLOOD HUMAN BLOOD does give it away somewhat to the viewer but Coopersmith still asks, "What more must I do?" - there is an impressive amount of bloodletting and decapitations, if yet more pigs. The moment when the Devil shows his hand, so to speak, and causes the statue of Christ within the chapel to bleed is strangely effective as is the feeling that, literally, all Hell is about to break loose.
Indeed, it's only Coopersmith's possession that doesn't quite work in the film's final scenes, given that he looks as uncomfortable as an overweight bloke who's being lifted into the air by a harness strapped about his gusset can be. One can only suspect that the look that he adopts during these scenes is meant to be diabolical when, in fact, he just looks gormless, as though Satan only took what he could find in school but came up short in the metalwork room with the one guy who, after fourteen years of schooling, is yet to work out that the final bell of the day means that it's time to leave and go home.
Disappointed, actually, would be a better look for Coopersmith had he only taken the time to compare his pigs to the Dobermans conjured up by Damian in The Omen but if the rest of Evilspeak is anything to go by, Coopersmith only really managed to conjure up a rather low-cost demon from one of the higher circles of Hell.
But, of course, it's a cheap, little shocker and in spite of it being made in a fairly grim fashion, it's unlikely that many of those who stumble upon it will take it at all seriously. Given, however, the straight telling of Coopersmith's plight, Evilspeak was clearly not meant as a comedy/horror but it's lack too much to be horrific.
As with Contamination, the print used to source Evilspeak, although the best that Anchor Bay might have been able to get, leaves a bit to be desired. Whilst the way in which the DVD handles colour, the clarity of the picture and the lack of digital noise are all good, there's a scratchiness about the print, particularly at the edges, that means whilst it is a good transfer, the source print could have been better.
That said, and in Anchor Bay's defence, there's unlikely to be much more that they could have done and although there are blemishes on the print, anyone looking for this on DVD is unlikely to get anything better as what prints exist are sure to have been damaged over the twenty-two years between this film's making and the release of this DVD.
The soundtrack is, again, nothing out of the ordinary but Anchor Bay have included their customary DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio tracks alongside a stereo one.
As ever, Anchor Bay have done a sterling job in sourcing and creating extras for this two-disc DVD release of Evilspeak, including:
Evilspeak (Full Length, Restored Version) (99m38s): The original release of Evilspeak in the UK, back in less permissive times, was cut rather heavily, losing 3m34s of gore, which was badly chopped from the print with all of the deaths occuring offscreen. This alternate version of the film has been fully restored as part of this release, adding the cut footage to take the running time close to 100 minutes. Mostly, it's just extra dialogue but it does restore the film to the original, pre-certification cut that existed in the early-eighties on the Videospace label before the introduction of the Video Recordings Act in 1984 and, as is now common with their releases, shows Anchor Bay's commitment to sourcing bonus features for their releases.
Theatrical Trailers: Beginning with the rather optimistic statement, "Coming soon to a cinema near you", this bonus feature on Disc 2 includes trailers for The Manson Family, Bubba Ho-Tep, Undead and The Toolbox Murders.
Audio Commentary: Clint Howard, director Eric Watson general production guy and Warren Lewis recorded a commentary for this DVD that's really little more than a chance for the three of them to look fondly back at the making of Evilspeak. Howard talks twice as much as Watson and Lewis together and remembers more than you'd think given the twenty years or so that have passed between then and now but is under the impression that they were cutting-edge filmmakers given their use of a computer on Evilspeak.
Trailer (1m41s): Featuring clips from the film that are intercut with Coopersmith's acceptance of the Devil, this shows all of the best gore scenes and hints at the nudity in the film.
Biographies: This DVD includes biographical information, should you require it, on Clint Howard (8x Pages) and RJ Armstrong (6x Pages).
Film Notes: Seven pages of notes are available for Evilspeak, promoting it more that it deserves.
Photo Gallery: Sixty-two still images from the film, behind the scenes and of promotional artwork are included in this bonus feature.
If the Devil gets all the best tunes - Jimmy Page, Robert Johnson and The Rolling Stones - it's surely little comfort when he looks at the rest of his followers and that includes not only Coopersmith but the hopeless Satanists who run like frightened rabbits at the end of The Ninth Gate. Frankly, it'd be enough to turn anyone to Christianity...
There are better films out there and if you're looking for the best example of a troubled teen who uses a film's final reel to strike back at those who bullied them, you'd be better off with de Palma's Carrie than Evilspeak but for something on the fringes of that lightly-populated genre, Evilspeak is mostly a struggle but is bookended by a great beginning and a fair ending. In a two-disc set that includes an alternate version, no more than five minutes of grisly action simply isn't enough.
Then again, should you be a fan of Apple Computers and your copies of Pirates Of Silicon Valley and videos of speeches made by Steve Jobs are now wearing a little thin, this just might be of some interest.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 12:12:07