Review : Evilspeak (1982)

Evilspeak was directed by Eric Weston in 1982 and stars Clint Howard in the lead role. It was banned in the United Kingdom during the video nasties purge in the early 1980’s. Evilspeak tells the story of a military academy student, victim of constant bullying by his fellow classmates, who manages to unleash evil forces to take his revenge on his tormentors.

Evilspeak was very different from what I expected, especially knowing the film was part of the video nasties. Instead of a straight-up horror film, it is more of a revenge thriller. It focuses on its main character and develops the story until the gory action begins and feels justified.

Coopersmith, played by Clint Howard, is a shy nerdy teenager who lost his parents in a car accident. He is being bullied by other students and treated harshly by some of the school staff. He only finds comfort in the company of a puppy given to him by the only positive person he meets in the school : the cafeteria cook. Evilspeak shows a lot of the struggles Coopersmith is going through and his tormentors become increasingly cruel as the movie progresses. I thought treating the story in such a way was a smart move as the violence that ensues in the final act is very satisfying as watching the bullies get killed is something the viewer is waiting for all along.

It is sometimes silly and cheesy but it is full of fun ideas such as using pigs as evil animals doing satanic deeds instead of something more typical like wolves. Also, Coopersmith uses a computer to translate an old satanic book. The mix of technology (especially in an underground ritual chamber) and ancient black magic was really silly and fun.

While the first two acts focus on the characters and the story, the final act abruptly becomes over-the-top and gory. The tone changes as fast as our main character suddenly lets his rage out after keeping his pain bottled up for so long. Evilspeak could have been more bloody throughout but there is plenty of gore in its conclusion.

Though the film shows its age and the special effects don’t hold up very well, the tension is well-built and Evilspeak is a must-see for any genre enthusiast. Clint Howard gives a very good performance and the film is overall very enjoyable. It is one of those forgotten gems that deserves attention.

The blu-ray released by 88 Films has an excellent transfer, both regarding audio and video, and presents the remastered uncut version of the film. It also has a lot of interesting bonus features giving insight on the film : an audio commentary, various special effects featurettes and more.

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Review : Solarwarriors (1986)

Solarwarriors, also known as Solarbabies, was directed by Alan Johnson and released in 1986. It stars a few recognizable faces from the 1980’s such as Jason Patrick, Lukas Haas and Peter Deluise.

In the future, a nuclear war has left Earth as a desert wasteland, where the ocean has dried up. The world is now ruled by a sinister corporation known as the E-Protectorate. Beyond ruthless, they hoard water and take children from their families to train them to work for the corporation. But when a group of young rebels discover an extraterrestrial sphere with healing powers, they set out to release the planet from the clutches of the oppressors.

Solarwarriors takes place in a post-apocalyptic world and is highly influenced by its peers. Aimed at a younger audience, the film is the Road Warrior for children. This is particularly visible in the costume designs as well as the desertic locations.

The main cast gives great performances and the characters were endearing unlike some of the supporting characters who were a bit over-the-top. The film screams of the 80’s, from the rollerblades to the music, which gives it a very charming aspect. It is corny, cheesy and extremely enjoyable.

The plot is quite weak and the side stories make little sense but being targeted at a young audience, it uses all the elements needed to please the viewer : a fun alien entity, a group of outcasts who like having fun skating around, a journey to escape the oppressing world created by adults… In that regard, it is well constructed.

Each act of Solarwarriors has a different tone : the first act focuses on establishing the main characters, the second act has a heavy post-apocalyptic atmosphere while the third act has a sci-fi feel to it. This structure certainly kept me entertained through the entire movie even though it appears as inconsistent storytelling.

To conclude, Solarwarriors is a cheesy 80’s teen movie with a very high entertainment value. I recommend it, especially if you enjoy 80’s family movies.

Review : Phantom Of The Opera (1989)

Phantom Of The Opera from 1989 was directed by Dwight H. Little who brought us Halloween 4 the year before.

Christine Day is a young Broadway singer in New York City. She is auditioning for a show and comes across a piece of music written by an unknown music composer named Erik Destler nearly 100 years before. Erik had made a pact with the devil so the world would love his music, but the devil had one condition: that Erik’s face would be horribly disfigured forever. Once Christine sings his music, she is taken from present day New York to 1881 London were she is the star of the London Opera House. There she is coached by a mysterious caped figure who will do anything to make her the star of the opera even if it means murdering people, and the figure is none other than Erik Destler himself.

Phantom Of The Opera doesn’t limit itself to being a simple remake. It remains faithful to the original material while adding all the elements of the slasher genre, including the blood and gore. The film is flawed but entertaining throughout.

There are some interesting shots in the film such as the scene where the phantom is playing the violin in the snow. The phantom’s lair was particularly well designed. It is both rough and elegant which mirrors the phantom’s personality, who is refined and yet also a sadistic murderer.

The prosthetics were not impressive but used in a very creative way as the phantom is applying his victims’ skin on his own face, like a make-up artist would on a film set. Robert Englund gave a great performance in this film. As seen on the original poster, the marketing of the film was heavily focused on Robert Englund’s popularity as Freddy Krueger. However, the film never feels like a Nightmare on Elm Street rip-off and its most appeling aspect is its atmosphere rather than its title character.

I found the third act of Phantom Of The Opera to be the most enjoyable part of the film as the characters confront the phantom. The film sometimes feels dull and should have focused more on the killings but it is still entertaining.

Review : Toolbox Murders (2004)

Toolbox Murders, directed by Tobe Hooper and released in 2004, is a remake of the movie of the same name from 1978.

Nell and Steven, a young married couple, move into an apartment building who used to be a hotel house for actors. When renovations start, suspicious murders take place. Nell soon discovers that evil forces may be responsible for the residents’ gruesome murders.

Toolbox Murders has a heavy Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe. The image is very grainy which gives Toolbox Murders an old school look. Through the entire film, I felt like Tobe Hooper was trapped in his own trademark style (at this point, I have to confess a fact that will certainly make you raise an eyebrow : I greatly dislike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

The characters were mostly over-the –top and purely designed to be killed. Nell, the main character, made some questionnable decisions. She is scared of her own shadow and yet goes looking for danger which felt out-of-character. The scenario also seemed ridiculous at times, especially with the addition of black magic. Halfway through the movie, the tone changes from a serious slasher to a silly gore-fest.

However, despite not bringing anything new to the genre, Toolbox Murders was still an entertaining slasher. I especially enjoyed the variety of the kills and the weapons used. The killer uses a different weapon for each murder which added to the entertainment value as none of the kills are boring or repetitive.

I did enjoy Toolbox Murders, it was a good slasher but after watching it, the only thing I really want is to find and watch the original.