Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #331
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: August 22, 1981 (Japan), February 26, 1982 (USA)
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 100 minutes
Director: Eric Weston
Producer: Eric Weston, Sylvio Tabet, Gerald Hopman
Screenplay: Eric Weston, Joseph Garofalo
Special Effects: John Carter, Harry Woolman
Cinematography: Irv Goodnoff
Score: Roger Kellaway
Editing: Charles Tetoni
Studios: Leisure Investment Company, Coronet Film
Distributor: Moreno Films
Stars: Clint Howard, R.G. Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Don Stark, Charles Tyner, Hamilton Camp, Louie Gravance, Jim Greenleaf, Lynn Hancock, Loren Lester, Kathy McCullen, Lenny Montana, Leonard D’John
Suggested Audio Candy
Roger Kellaway “Evilspeak”
If there is one thing that grinds my gonads then that would be bullies. Alas, we encounter them in all walks of life and they’re not exclusive to mean-spirited kids in the school yard. However, there is no time when we are less well-equipped than when we’re undergoing our transition into adulthood. It can be difficult deciphering your role in society at the best of times but what these heathens do is to ensure that we enter the next phase of our development without a shred of dignity and/or confidence to our names. Sadly, some leopards never change their spots, and a young asshole often goes on to become an older asshole who should know better but is disinterested in life’s lessons and is used to getting whatever they want handed to them on a silver platter. Worse still, they breed, which means lots of miniature assholes running amok and making the lives of the less streetwise amongst us a living hell.
Carrie White was one such victim. In 1976 Brian De Palma’s stylish interpretation of a novel by the legendary Stephen King struck an exclusive chord with those antagonized by their peers and those of us familiar with the concept of being shat upon took great umbrage to the treatment she received. Charity begins at home and her own mother was far less than hospitable. Thus, Creepy Carrie as she was less than affectionately known by her classmates, was left with nobody to turn to. It just so happens that horror loves nothing more than an underdog and, when things turned decidedly menstrual, she grabbed the chance to become somebody with grasping hands and turned the tables in some style.
I like to think of myself as something of a matchmaker. Having had to endure a mild dose of rough justice as an awkward adolescent myself, I learned how to read people. For all their cheap shots my persecutors couldn’t break my resolve and, as a result, I learned more about myself as a person and others around me than they could ever hope to decode. I know when a couple are perfectly matched and the data doesn’t lie when assessing the compatibility of our embittered prom queen and the equally browbeaten military cadet Stanley Coopersmith. Together I’m positive that they would cancel each other out and live a long and prosperous life together on an old ranch on the outskirts of town. The only potential deal breaker would be the pigs.
Coopersmith is played by a fresh-faced Clint Howard in a rare leading role which he gives his absolute all to. Having already suffered the agony of personal tragedy after his parents’ untimely deaths, his pain is compacted as he is enrolled into West Andover Military Academy and swiftly intimidated on his arrival. Stanley sucks at sport and, on a soccer pitch brimming with testosterone, he finds out the hard way that life can be cruel, never more so, than when you’ve already succumbed to harsh treatment. His oppressors think nothing of his already uneven mindset and push him to the brink of despair. His surroundings don’t lend themselves well to the development of a sensitive soul such as Stanley, this elite academy is regimented by Christianity and has a fierce reputation for shaping young men from charmed existences into lobotomized killing machines for the US government. This is no place for him.
Fortunately for Coopersmith, and not so for his numerous persecutors, there is an admittedly ominous light at the end of his long dark tunnel. One day while performing the daily chores set for him by his so-called role models, he finds a hidden room in the church’s sub-basement. It is stockpiled with all manner of demonic paraphernalia and, in particular, a tome scribed in Latin by a somewhat indignant necromancer by the name of Father Esteban (Richard Moll). It just so happens that Stanley has gained one friend in his time pulling the linen from his ass crack; technology serves him well and if ever there was a tournament of Pong then he’d have his retribution right there. However, instead of chiseling away at his high score on Frogger, he uses his Jurassic piece of kit to translate the verse and the virus becomes aware.
Eric Weston’s film is the epitome of a slow burner. The opening two acts offer far more time for characterization than is customary in a film such as Evilspeak. It utilizes its time relatively soundly with middling to decent performances from all its key players. Ultimately though this is all about Stanley and, despite the occasional foible, Howard gives an excellent account of himself as the docile cadet. Weston keeps his beast on its leash until the final fifteen minutes and it is here that we are paid off with no dearth of kindness. All hell literally breaks loose as those who have wronged Stanley (along with anyone foolish enough to take a soapy rub down), are put to task in a multitude of grisly and inventive ways.
There’s the pay-off; Weston doesn’t have at its disposal the razzle dazzle of a De Palma production and soft focus in never necessitated. This is boys with toys all the way. Give us garish green gamma rays and an ethereal glow and we’re as happy as pigs in swill. In his new guise as the vengeful judgement of Esteban he unleashes his furious anger upon his adversaries. No need for lobbing cutlery with your mind when brandishing an ancient sword and gifted the ability of levitation. We have waited patiently for this denouement and Evilspeak remunerates gladly for any lulls in the narrative with a home straight that’s straight up savage and that’s damn straight.
Nowadays Weston’s affable little number is available in all its uncut glory although additional gore footage shot has sadly become lost in the annals of time. Back in 1984 those treacherous suits got a sniff of its rancid cheese and it was subsequently prosecuted as a video nasty where it remained shelved for three years before being introduced shy of nearly four minutes of grue. Hardly seems worth it does it? Subtract the bloodletting and you’re left with a lengthy pilot for a new daytime soap. Time hasn’t necessarily been kind to Evilspeak as Skyrim is preferred to Roland on The Ropes nowadays and technology waits for no man, least of all the old Prince of Darkness himself. Therein lays the charm within Weston’s parable; long in the tooth it may well be but look beyond its seemingly infinite load screen and read the finer code.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For The Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Hell hath no fury like a possessed sword-wielding goober with a chip on his shoulder and a posse of famished grunting boars in his pen. How’s this for Revenge of The Nerds? Heads are split akin to honeydew melons, still beating hearts evacuated from their gushing cavities, chandeliers used for impalement, nails embedded into skullcaps, and small intestines used for demented swines to floss with after chowing down on liver. It turns out that pigs are cleaner than we’re led to believe as Babe washes away all that festering city smog with a quick shoehorned in shower. Well done Eric, well done.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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