The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Evilspeak is the kind of movie that makes you ask yourself, What in the hell am I watching? But I mean that in a good way, I swear. The film, released in 1981, combined fear of then-new computer technology with the “satanic panic” that was prevalent in pop culture at the time. The end product was so shocking and gory that it was banned in Britain, while Warner Brothers insisted that some of the most graphic bits of violence be cut out in order to avoid an X rating. Seen today, Evilspeak appears quite dated, yet that's also part of its weird, macabre appeal to genre fans. Scream Factory has given the movie a new 1080p high-definition transfer for their Blu-Ray release, and also restored it to include all the previously excised footage. This is exciting.

The film begins with a prelude in which satanic leader Father Esteban (played by the pre-Night Court Richard Moll) performs a deadly ritual during the Dark Ages. Cut to modern day, where the story lands at a military academy. Our hero, so to speak, is Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard), a well-meaning but frequently bullied cadet. While cleaning out the church cellar as part of an unfair punishment, he stumbles upon Father Esteban's diary and begins typing the entries into a computer that translates their meaning for him. It soon appears as though the ghost of Father Esteban may somehow be inside the computer, using his power to influence the impressionable young man. Coopersmith gets his nasty on, plotting to exact revenge upon those at the academy who have tormented him (which is pretty much everybody). The end result involves satanic pigs, a gigantic crucifix, and lots of severed body parts. Lots!

The first hour of Evilspeak is admittedly a little slow. There are plenty of scenes in which Coopersmith is abused by both peers and superiors. When we aren't watching him get bullied, we see him sitting at a computer, frantically reading translations of satanic black mass rituals. The final half hour, though, is what makes the film truly notable in the annuls of '80s horror. It's an absolute bloodbath, with some of the most grisly images anyone had seen on a movie screen to that point. And Coopersmith's wrath still packs a punch to this day. The level of carnage on display – as well as the sheer twistedness of it – is kind of staggering.

Evilspeak really is a movie about evil. (Anton LeVey, founder of the Church of Satan, was said to be a big fan. Well, you wouldn't expect him to dig romantic comedies, right?) It probes the idea that decent people can be pushed too far, that they can be subject to negative influences that cause them to behave irrationally and impulsively. That's a far more frightening notion than you normally get in the genre. Stanley Coopersmith has no outlet for his anger, so it builds up inside of him until he can no longer contain it. Then all hell breaks loose – literally. It's not hard to understand why the movie was so shocking in its day. Parents were worried about rock bands hiding backwards satanic messages on their albums and making their children crazy. Here was a film saying that devilish evils were real and genuinely could impact young people! Although that sort of paranoia has subsided, the idea of someone being pushed to deadly extremes remains as relevant as ever.

Other things about the movie are more comical in retrospect. The depiction of computers is hilariously outdated. Now that we know what they are – and, more importantly, are not - capable of, it's somewhat funny to see the paranoid way Evilspeak views them. Visual effects that look primitive now are used to imply the devil's presence inside Coopersmith's computer. It's also worth noting that hi-def doesn't always benefit older movies. While the film looks very good in its new transfer, some of the seams are now visible. During the big climax, as Coopersmith ominously levitates over his tormentors, you can clearly see the wires suspending Clint Howard from the ceiling.

Despite those things, Evilspeak is a fascinatingly deranged horror flick from an earlier era that still packs a punch.

Blu-Ray Features:

Scream Factory has put together a nice package of bonus materials including audio commentary from producer/director Eric Weston. There's also a brand-new retrospective documentary on the making of the film, and it's fantastic. Several of the stars appear, including Haywood Nelson, who talks about the challenges of coming off a hit TV series (What's Happening!!) and going straight into a low-budget horror film. He quickly realized that showing up for work in his expensive sports car wasn't endearing him to the rest of the cast. Lynn Hancock is here, too, talking about her character's two biggest moments: a nude scene and an especially gruesome death scene. Perhaps most amusing is Richard Moll, who offers fond remembrances of playing such an evil character. He's got a very self-aware sense of humor about it all. Running about half an hour, this feature is enjoyably informative.

Special effects artist Allan Apone gets his own segment, in which he explains how the grisliest moments were achieved. His description of getting the pigs to chew on a fake body is particularly humorous. Actors Joseph Cortese and Don Stark on also on hand with individual interviews about the film, while Clint Howard is represented through a 15-minute interview carried over from a previous DVD release. He acknowledges pride in Evilspeak, saying that his father encouraged him to do it when he had concerns about the subject matter.

A new transfer + restored gore + solid supplements = a horror package fans of fright flicks won't want to miss.

For more information about this title – or to order a copy – please visit the Scream Factory website.

Evilspeak is rated R for sequences of violence and gore that will make your head spin. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.

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