Stanley (Clint Howard) is the underdog at the military academy where he studies. He's not wanted in the football team, reviled by his classmates - particularly jock Bubba (Don Stark), ignored by the ladies and barely tolerated by the teachers. Only fellow outcast Kowalski (Haywood Nelson) has any time for him.
What is a poor orphaned boy like Stanley to do? Well, he's assigned to clear out the academy's cellars for college priest Jameson (Joe Cortese), which is where he unearths evidence of the college's creator - the enigmatic Esteban (Richard Moll) - having been heavily involved in Satanism.
Discovering an old spell book of the deceased Esteban's, Stanley soon becomes fixated on his secret obsession. He begins to frequent the college library where he researches Esteban's further on the school computers, eventually managing to translate the incantations contained within the strange book. At this point, Stanley becomes convinced that he may be able to summon Satan and wreak revenge upon his tormentors.
But there's just one problem: the computer tells Stanley that he needs human blood in order for Esteban's spells to work effectively...
Watching EVILSPEAK now, it's amusing to think that it was ever banned as a video nasty in the UK. But banned it was, despite the fact that it's actually quite a reputable production and whatever gore is in it is never nasty. On the contrary, the gore is largely reserved for the final act and even then is very fantastical in its execution.
Still a great tale of the worm that turned, a la CARRIE, with Howard - brother of successful film director Ron Howard - perfectly cast as the bungling, tubby and piggy-eyed social misfit. You feel his pain, but get the feeling you'd be tripping him over too if you were in his school class. The fact that his aggressors, particularly smarmy Stark and R G Armstrong as a violent drunken Sergeant, are such shits makes his revenge all the more sweet.
Production design is above par for an independent horror film of the early 1980s; Roger Kellaway's score is beautifully grandiose and atmospheric in its epic orchestral sweeps. The special effects range from the very good (the violence) to the rather rudimentary (inevitably, the computer graphics are going to look crude 35 years down the line).
Speaking of the violence, we get decapitations, possessed pigs chewing on an unfortunate woman at bath time; a pulsating heart torn out of one victim's chest ... All very graphic but never lingered upon for longer than necessary. As mentioned earlier in this review, EVILSPEAK can be bloody - but it's never nasty.
Newcomers may find it a tad slow to get going. It certainly focuses a lot more on character than most modern horror flicks are prepared to. But, again, that helps the eventual pay-off to resonate further.
EVILSPEAK comes to UK blu-ray courtesy of 88 Films.
The 1080p HD presentation is proffered to us as an MPEG4-AVC file, framing the film in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhancing the picture for 16x9 televisions. Colours are much bolder than they've previously been on DVD, while detail is more pronounced for the most part too. There is some fading and flicker during some darker moments, and the picture does exhibit a little softness at times. But, struck from a clean negative print, this is a pleasing transfer overall. It appears to be the same transfer as the one used on Scream Factory's region A blu-ray disc.
The version presented in HD, like on the Scream disc, is the US theatrical cut with all previously edited scenes of gore reinstated. It runs at 92 minutes and 32 seconds in length. The presentation opens with the Warner Bros logo.
English LPCM mono audio is reliably clean and clear throughout.
The disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, pop-up menus include a scene selection option allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.
Bonus features begin with a new 29-second introduction to the film from the affable Weston.
He's also present for an enjoyable, thorough audio commentary track. He's joined by Howard and production assistant Warren Lewis. They speak fluently about the making of the film (which was originally going to be called THE FAMILY), locations, weather on shoot, anecdotes, actors, special effects sequences that did and didn't work, and much more.
Next up is the extended cut of the film in standard definition, which incorporates 7 additional minutes of storyline. More dialogue but no additional gore, folks. But for purists, this is the version you'll have seen on the old UK pre-cert VHS. It runs at 99 minutes and 32 seconds in length. Alas, the pan-and-scan presentation is zoomed-in quite severely. Mono audio is thin but serviceable; picture quality resembles ropy old DVD.
Howard turns up again in a fun 11-minute interview in which the charismatic actor speaks wryly about EVILSPEAK and his career in general.
A 10-minute interview with Stark is at first remarkable mainly for the amount of beef he's gained in the last three decades. As with the Howard chat, this finds the actor sat in front of clips from the main feature as he describes how he became involved with the production.
The interviews continue with Joe Cortese. He gets 7 minutes, where he admits to be initially sceptical about taking on the role but overall seems quite fond in his memories of the shoot.
A spoilerific original trailer clocks in at just under 2 minutes long.
"Satan's Pigs and Severed Heads" is one of the disc highpoints: a 27-minute retrospective, licensed from Shout! Factory, in which several cast members offer a light-hearted and ultimately gracious look back at the film. Issues such as FX practicalities, the film's banning in Europe, what it's actually about (not everyone who read the script knew), the discomfort of appearing nude and much more. This is an excellent companion piece to the film.
"Effects Speak" spends 14 enjoyable minutes with special make-up effects artist Allan A Apone, discussing his work on the film. This featurette really gathers steam with Apone begins revealing how some of the FX work was achieved.
88 Films also furnish this disc with trailers for DON'T GO IN THE WOODS ... ALONE, HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, LIVE LIKE A COP DIE LIKE A MAN, MOTHER'S DAY, SLAUGHTERHOUSE, TRANCERS and SPLATTER UNIVERSITY.
This release comes with double-sided cover artwork: the above new design by Graham Humphreys, and the - if you're a staunch video fan, like me - preferable original artwork (as seen on the UK pre-cert VHS release) on the reverse. A slipcase is also included in the packaging.
EVILSPEAK gets the royal treatment on blu-ray from 88 Films. It's another "must have" for UK-based nasties fans!
Review By Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|
|see main review|