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Director: Eric Weston
Cast: Clint Howard, R.G. Armstrong, Joe Cortese
Length: 89 min
Label: Shout! Factory
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- Newly commissioned interviews with actors Richard Moll, Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Loren Lester and Lynn Hancock
- Audio Commentary with Director Eric Weston
- Additional interviews with actors Joseph Cortese, Clint Howard and Don Stark
- Original theatrical trailer
When you hear the term “Video Nasty” there a lot of things that might pop into your head— Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Zombi 2—the term has become synonymous with a slew of gore-centric films; films that often focus on the eating of flesh. One thing, however, oyou probably don’t associate the term with is Clint Howard. “Who is Clint Howard?” you might ask. Well, chances are even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you’d recognize his face. The younger brother of director/actor Ron Howard, Clint has never exactly been a leading actor. While he has appeared in countless films, including many cameos in his brother’s pictures, Clint’s less-than-typical looks have often forced him into bit parts. However, early in Clint’s career he did snag the leading role in Evilspeak (1981), a film that would go on to be classified among at least 29 other prosecuted films to make up what has been commonly referred to as Video Nasties. While the film has aged in the 33 years since its release, dating much of the gore and violence, Evilspeak maintains enough entertaining aspects to capture audiences today.
Opening on a 16th century black mass, Evilspeak sets up a specific mood fairly quick. Within the first few minutes, a satanic-ritual-turned-sacrificial-ceremony, the film offers up its first victim. With the strike of a sword, an unnamed woman’s head is fiercely lopped off and, with a match cut to a soccer ball, transitions to modern day; connecting the mass to Stanley Coppersmith’s (Clint Howard) reality. This first murder is typical of the film’s violence. While it is explicit, it is also cheap, almost humorous. A first time director, Eric Weston doesn’t necessarily seem to have the technical proficiencies to mask the low-budget effects. The filmmaking often draws attention to this through slow cuts. In a way, the humorous effects do add a layer of charm to the film.
Life for Coppersmith, an orphan who lives at a military boarding school, is difficult. Despite being intelligent, he is bullied by his fellow classmates, as well as by instructors. Coppersmith, who spends most of his free time toying with computers, is thrust into the action of the film by discovering the relics of the ancient cult.
Weston’s real talent as a director shines during most of the film’s less desirable moments, or at least less desirable for some horror fans. While the film is remember for its violence, almost garnishing an X rating from the MPAA, the vast majority of the film is far from a horror film, at least not a typical one. Most of the film contains episodes pitting Coppersmith against a group of bullies. Lead by Bubba (Don Stark who would gain later fame in That 70s Show), the gang ruthlessly torments Coppersmith. The episodes slowly build the tension until it crescendos in a scene of extreme violence. The last ten minutes of the film are an utter bloodbath. While the onscreen violence and comedy cause the film to reach a camp quality, the film does treat many moments with a sincere tone. The film does have a heart, and it is a fairly big one. The audience is able to connect with Coppersmith, who victim to unnecessary and constant bullying (and with a very strong performance by Clint Howard) is sympathetic and identifiable. It can’t be said that the film isn’t dated at times, but much of the core spirit resonates as strongly today as it would have in 1981.
Weston’s vision may be a bit inconsistent; there are moments where the direction is strong, especially in a few of the moving shots, but they do not dominate the film’s runtime. However, despite the director’s somewhat flawed execution the film shows a lot of promise. Sadly, Weston abandoned horror for three decades, until returning to the genre in 2011 with Hyenas. Evilspeak may not be the goriest Video Nasty, nor the most exciting horror film on the market, but it is fun, offering enough assorted elements to entertain diverse audiences.
This Shout! Factory is packed with interviews. Not only are there brand new commissioned ones—featuring cast members Richard Moll, Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Loren Lester and Lynn Hancock—Shout! Factory included a few older interviews with Joseph Cortese, Clint Howard and Don Stark. Additional material includes an all-new audio commentary track with Eric Weston and the original theatrical trailer. Overall, there is enough material to keep you busy for a while.
According to Shout! Factory, this AVC encoded 1080p transfer is completely restored from a newly surfaced interpositive 35mm print of the film. This means that fans now have the opportunity to own the most accurate presentation of the film to date. If you are familiar with Shout! Factory you probably know what to expect. The picture quality is stunning with only a few slight distractions. The colors are accurate and warm, the contrast is overall well represented, and the film has a relatively sharp feel. With the exception of a few scenes in the film, there are few moments where compression artifacts are present. There is a scene in particular, occurring early in the film, where the quality suffers greatly, despite being well-lit (As shown in the below photo). However, it stands out as one of the few moments where the quality is distracting. Minimal scratches and dust are present but, matched with a natural amount of film grain maintained, they offer the release that genuine filmic look
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix of the film is nearly flawless. The mix allows for a brilliant presentation of a dynamic balance between the film’s soundtrack, sound effects, and dialogue. The mix really accents the splendid soundtrack, composed by Roger Kellaway, which accurately sets the mood of the film: a mix between the ancient Satanist’s cult and the emerging age of computers. Almost a cross between John Carpenter’s action scores (They Live, Escape from New York) and Gregorian Chants, Evilspeak’s soundtrack carries the film. There are no major issues, pop, hisses, or cracks, leaving an accurate and enjoyable listening experience.
Evilspeak may not be the most frightening or bloody film able to claim the title of video nasty, but it is an honestly entertaining ride. The film oscillates genres, and offers a bit of something for everyone: 80s camp, comedy, horror, and gore. The respectable transfer matched with enough special features more than makes up for the always-modest Shout! Factory price tag.