Friday, October 26, 2007

Evilspeak: Clint Howard goes all Carrie on your Ass

I've never been a big Brian DePalma fan.

Most of his movies seemed to be pretending to be something more than they were, slickly-shot but still morally-grubby exploitation pictures with delusions of Godhood. Even when he locked onto a clever idea he'd club it to death with heavy-handed visual overkill, or self-conscious faux-Hitchcockery. So it's no wonder that DePalma's hugely influential horror hit, Carrie, leaves me pretty damned cold today, while Evilspeak--a trashy, ridiculous and artless ripoff of Carrie circa 1980--entertains the hell out of me.

Bumbling Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard) endures endless humiliation, torment, and abuse from his fellow cadets at West Andover military academy. One afternoon he's put on punishment patrol, and gets assigned to help clean out the basement of the Academy Chapel. Whilst digging around, Coopersmith stumbles upon a Scary Spell Book, which he hard-wires into a computer to resurrect an evil de-frocked priest (Night Court's Richard Moll!) for some serious Charles Bronson-goes-demonic vengeance.

Part of Evilspeak's charm is that it doesn't pretend to be a statement about young manhood the way Carrie purported to be a Profound Statement about the personal hell teenage girls can create for each other. No, Evilspeak director Eric Weston just delivers the exploitation goods by the snow-shovelful.

A partial checklist: two decapitations, and one skull-splitting, by sword; one neck graphically snapped and wrung by Satan; one secretary, chewed up by a pack of killer pigs in the comfort of her bathtub; one fascist Latin instructor (Hamilton Camp) who gets impaled on an extra-pointy chandelier; one pompous priest (Joe Cortese) who takes a Satanically-flung crucifixion nail to the skull. And that's just the half of it.

The other half: Petri Dish fave Howard, who does put-upon-nerd-goes-gonzo better than any human who ever walked the earth. And when he begins flying around the aisles of the Academy Chapel, hair standing on end like Don King and wielding one bad-assed sword to do the devil's duty, he makes Sissy Spacek look like an anemic kid with PMS.

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