It’s interesting watching something like Evilspeak now, 40 years after its release and in a completely different world where “nerd is the new cool” holds sway and the kind of ruthless bullying we see on display feels even more startling than it must have when it first came out. The movie tries to embodies a bunch of different trends at the time, including satanic worship and computers to invoke the Devil. Toss in a great Clint Howard performance and you have yourself a fine horror flick that fleshes out its nerdy protagonist and offers a little more than the standard power grab motif.
THE QUICK SUMMARY: Poor Stanley Coopersmith. He’s an outcast welfare pickup at the nasty West Andover Military Academy, constantly picked on and never seeming to catch a break. Good thing Stanley found the black mass bible from excommunicated satanic priest Father Esteban, and uses computers to conjure up the devil to give him the power to overcome his bullies. Soon pigs go wild, people float, and bodies will accumulate. Serves you right for picking on poor Stanley!
There’s not a whole lot to be made of the black mass/satanic coven hidden beneath the academy, but everything else about Evilspeak works surprisingly well, from the way some of the teachers dismiss Stanley as a welfare pickup not worth their time to others more frustrated with his potential and trying to make a connection. And in Clint Howard they get a GREAT performance. He’s bumbling and comical but never without a good heart and a real sadness around his circumstances. It really makes me wish he did more meaty roles.
The violence and gore is pretty minimal, but when it happens it’s eerie and weird in just the right way. There’s a sequence where a woman who stole Stanley’s black mass bible is attacked in the shower by a horde of pigs and what starts as a standard kill becomes more and more disturbing. Likewise the end where Stanley is finally granted the power he’s been seeking: visually it’s a real treat, above what you would think of horror at the time.
The whole revenge things has been played out for a while in horror, but seeing it here with some real passion and wacky computer imagery makes Evilspeak a definite classic. Sure, there are parallels to Carrie and others, but none of them had Clint Howard floating with a satanic sword.
Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it.