Evilspeak (1981)
July 26, 2023 4:12 AM - Subscribe

REMEMBER THE LITTLE KID YOU USED TO PICK ON? WELL, HE’S A BIG BOY NOW. Bullied by classmates, a pudgy military-school student fights back by computer with the devil.

I'm trying to start and participate in more horror movie discussions, so please accept this post as my first Fanfare offering and let me know if I missed anything! Light spoilers ahead in the extended description...

Stanley Coopersmith is an orphan and a classic 80s teen social outcast at the posh military academy he attends, which also hosts one friendly and protective fellow student, one kindly cafeteria cook, and an otherwise consistently awful crew of entitled rich bullies and domineering, snide teachers and administration. Nerdy Stanley struggles to make it in this hostile environment, until he stumbles across the abandoned belongings/underground cave-tomb of a 16th-century Spanish heretic and Satanist hidden below the school's chapel. As his bullies and the adults who are supposed to be caring for him ramp up their cruelty, Stanley is drawn, with high-tech computer assistance, to summon the powers of darkness to his aid, resulting in an explosion of gory revenge.

Content warnings: puppy peril that melted even my cold, cat-person heart :(

Available on Shudder and AMC+.
posted by hilatron (11 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I quite enjoyed this oddball Carrie-inspired 80s teen horror. It's low-budget and sort of goofy in atmosphere, but I think gets at something authentic about the experience of being a bullied teen underneath the SATAN and the COMPUTOR GRAPHICS (which, I should note, also freakin rule). Clint Howard strikes a great balance as Stanley, with a sympathetic performance that is also slightly off-kilter, constantly panicked, and tuned a little too intense for every situation he's in. His core group of bullies is cartoonishly horrid, but again there's a core of reality to their behavior and actions. I was reminded of social/class dynamics from my own high school years, if turned up to a 13 or so. For me this does drag a bit in the middle, at least in part because it's painful to step through the obligatory and worsening* torment Stanley endures. However, once the movie goes into full rampage mode, it feels well-earned and the gore is both ridiculous and satisfying. It's a weird little gem and I recommend checking it out!

(*I will stress again: if you are sensitive to dog endangerment, this might be one to avoid or at least check the Wikipedia synopsis before wading in.)

Assorted (spoilery) notes and observations:
-How did Esteban get to the future US, get a bunch of his Satanic accoutrements and his tomb located under a church, and then get all that kinda forgotten about? ~handwave~
-I appreciate the use of pigs rather than dogs as Satan's harbingers and minions. Gives everything a Biblical Old-World flavor, is somehow inherently weirder and grosser than being attacked by big scary dogs.
-Why does this religious all-male military academy have an apparently annual bathing suit contest? Where do these girls come from? Is this anything resembling reality?
-I'm convinced Tim Burton ripped the general look of Selena Kyle pre-Catwoman transformation off of the school secretary.
-I absolutely adore the powers granted to computers in movies in the early 80s, and this is a choice example. Meet Lucifer...graphic design is his passion.
-This is an easy double bill with either 1) Alucarda, for the Satanic teen misfit revenge of it all, or 2) Edge of the Axe, for the superpowered computer McGuffin and the low-budget but effective gore.
posted by hilatron at 4:36 AM on July 26, 2023

Ooh, this looks like a fun one.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:13 AM on July 26, 2023

Of Course Clint Howard is in this movie? How could this movie exist without Clint Howard?
posted by Naberius at 9:59 AM on July 26, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'm shocked you've never seen this one DOT. It's so fun. Joe Bob did an episode on it for the Last Drive In and Clint came on the show. Highly recommended checking it out if you have Shudder or AMC+
posted by miss-lapin at 10:11 AM on July 26, 2023

A while ago I learned that Clint Howard had a punk band, The Kempsters. Their actual music doesn't do much for me, but Clint definitely had the stuff to be a rock icon. It's like somebody threw Keith Flint and a Chuckie doll in a blender...
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:20 PM on July 26, 2023 [2 favorites]

Also surprised that DoT hasn't seen this one yet! I double-featured it a while back with Ice Cream Man to get the full gamut of Clint Howard classic horror goodness.
posted by Shepherd at 3:20 PM on July 26, 2023 [1 favorite]

JBB also did an episode of Monstervision for the Ice Cream with Clint Howard. You can watch the host segments here. Another fun summer horror movie with Clint in it is Ticks!
posted by miss-lapin at 4:08 PM on July 26, 2023

Please, please, please don't encourage DoT to watch any more movies than he was already going to as I'm trying to catch up to his Watched Total on Letterboxd. ;)
posted by Molesome at 2:10 AM on July 27, 2023 [2 favorites]

I appreciate the use of pigs rather than dogs as Satan's harbingers and minions.

Definitely calls out to the story of Legion in Mark 5:1-20.

I saw this a couple years ago and was delighted, for so many reasons. I'm 90% confident the title of the film is an allusion to the Speak & Spell toy that came out immediately before this film entered production, which cracks me up more because the Evil Computer *never actually speaks*. Also, the end sequence is a goddamn blast (literally). I'm pretty sure Stanley's friends are originally supposed to intercede and prevent him from going Full Avenging Hell Angel, they talk about it right before the finale but then... never show up again. Cut scene maybe?

Also, there's a great Making of Evilspeak 30 min vid on YubTub, interviews with a heap of the cast (but not Clint, sadly) including an absolutely chuffed Richard Moll who played Esteban... that was a holy shit moment when I realized the Satanic Priest was Bull from Night Court!
posted by FatherDagon at 7:50 AM on July 27, 2023 [1 favorite]

Yes @FatherDagon I got that feeling too, they totally set up a "try to save the victim-monster from himself" moment but it got scrapped for whatever reason. At least we didn't have to see either of them become collateral damage, I suppose.
posted by hilatron at 7:59 PM on July 27, 2023

This one was pretty weird, even for super-low-budget 80s horror films. It's as if someone made a list of things that they thought were underrepresented in horror--

- 80s-type microcomputers
- military academies
- pigs as agents of evil (surprising, given their omnivorousness and the aggression of wild pigs)
- the possibility of Spanish heretics in America actually practicing witchcraft
- Clint Howard
- a male Carrie

--and said, "Let's put them all in the same movie."
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:55 PM on July 28, 2023 [1 favorite]

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