2 out of 5
Directed by: Eric Weston
A few moments of campy goofiness and a generally silly tone help keep Evilspeak puttering along, but it’s pretty loose, even by B-movie standards, never gelling into something that gains much momentum during its 90 minutes.
We open in the past: evil dude Esteban (Richard Moll!) is being told that his satanic ways are getting him excommunicated, and he celebrates with some free love, evil beheading magick. The goofiness of the effects and the over-seriousness of this scene is a good tone-setter; jumping forward to the 1980s, with ill-fortuned orphan Stanley (Clint Howard) being bullied by all his fellow military academy students puts us in solid revenge-movie territory.
The bits and pieces are set up well, with the bullies, led by Bubba (Don Stark), all appropriately slimy and assorted by the usual templates – the chubby one; the always laughing one; etc. – and the various leaders / coaches who don’t do Stanley any favors by forcing him to participate in activities like soccer, in which he’ll inevitably fail, or just setting him up to fail in general. As a result, Stanley is always stuck on some type of remedial duty, such as basement clean-up at the church… which is how he discovers the secret passageway to the devil worshipping room and a book in Latin with some dark magick verses.
Co-writer / director Eric Weston actually does a good job of pacing Stanley through the steps that lead him to his concluding revenge, and the outline above sounds pretty great (in a B-movie way) even as I’m typing it, but the movie is missing all of the stitching to tie this together, and Howard never seems to have gotten clear direction on whether we’re supposed to be laughing at him or sympathizing with him, causing him to just look really earnestly at things in every scene. This same tonal confusion extends to Roger Kellaway’s score, which alternates between goofy stings and ambience; it’s either self-aware dumb or it’s intended to be actually moody, who knows.
And without that stitching – without just a few lines or scenes of encouragement to explain why Stanley starts to type these Latin books into a computer, or why Esteban would use the computer as a means of possession, or why Stanley cares about playing in the big soccer game – the majority of the movie falls flat. I’m not asking for logic, per se, but it’s more that Evilspeak just stopped with the outline above, and figured that was enough as long as there’s some T&A (check) and some gore (check); it’s just going through the motions.
Goofy puppetry, a humorous excess of beheadings, and “whoooaaa computers” effects merit some chuckles, and I sense this is the kind of flick that gets better once you’ve watched it a million more times with zero expectations, but upon first viewing, it’s mostly a drag.