Welcome back to Notes from the Last Drive-In, where we take in the message of the dark lord Satan in a double feature on our penultimate week. The first of the films is the 1981 Clint Howard classic Evilspeak, while the night rounds out with the Spanish film The Day of the Beast (1995). So how was this early Summer devil’s night on Shudder? Let’s find out together.
Opening: There are really only five college movies. Every other one is a variation on a theme.
What happens when you send Clint Howard to a military academy, bully the hell out of him, and connect with Satan using an Apple II? You get 1981’s Evilspeak. This charming, incredibly goofy film is an average film for the drive-in but definitely delivers on all three Bs: blood, breasts, and beasts. The film, directed by Eric Weston and co-written by Weston and Joseph Garofalo, stars Clint Howard as Stanley Coopersmith, a downtrodden cadent who uncovers an ancient book used in a black mass ritual. Naturally, He ends up using a computer to tap into the spells within and summon Satan himself to get his revenge on those who wronged him. The film also features R. G. Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Lenny Montana, and Don Stark.
The film is every bit as goofy as you’d expect a 1981 Satanic horror film involving computers to be. It has plenty of blood, s surprising but welcome shower scene (the other one features Clint Howard, so your mileage may vary), and a group of feral hogs, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Hogzilla. The plot is ridiculous, but that’s not necessarily a strike against the movie. Creating a ritual site of rogue former Catholics on the California coast before the Spanish missions is ridiculous but at least plausible enough to work. The strange quasi-Christian-military academy is just as odd and yet consistent a choice with the film. The film is like that the whole way through, making what might seem like strange choices in narrative, yet they just kind of work because that is the sort of film it is.
There isn’t an actor in the film that doesn’t pull their weight – there’s no bad performance in the bunch. Clint Howard sells the abused and tormented outcast well with enough hints at the menace beneath that is unveiled fully in the film’s apocalyptic climax. His transformation from prey to predator is satisfying in the scope of the narrative and performance. Meanwhile, veteran western actor R. G. Armstrong chews the scenes as Sarge, a menacing groundkeeper. Perhaps most surprising for most audiences would be Lenny Montana, best known as Luca Brasi in The Godfather, playing the cook. It is a surprising and fun turn for an actor who filled in a role of such menace in the mafia classic.
Visually speaking, for a movie with a pretty low budget, it’s quite good-looking at times, thanks to the cinematographic eye of Irv Goodnoff. There is also some fun editing by Charles Tetoni with an incredible cut between a severed head and a soccer ball. The whole movie comes together with the only loose gear coming in the form of the sometimes strange sitcom-style score by Roger Kellaway. The oddity of the music does add its own charm, of course.
Joe Bob’s segments mostly revolved around the night’s guest, Clint Howard. Clint’s stint as a guest was fantastic, and he is certainly among the top three special appearances of the show’s history. He was affable, charming, and had some fascinating stories about his experiences in Hollywood, from Star Trek to The Andy Griffith Show, and of course, Evilspeak. One particularly fascinating factoid was the few brushes with a disaster that Clint Howard narrowly avoided, such as the usage of fuller’s earth on the set and the usage of rubber cement smoke – both hazardous substances in hindsight. That’s not even getting into the giant live pigs on set.
The host segments for the first half of the night reached their absolute peak, with a new musical number, “Clint Howard (Thank You)” by John Brennan. It was adorable and charming and even featured a surprise visit from Ron Howard.
Evilspeak is a solid drive-in film. While I disagree with Joe Bob Briggs’ four-start assessment of the movie, I think it is worth the ride. The story is pretty entertaining with enough of that 1980s style goofiness to add some unintentional laughs. It also has one Hell of a finale, pun intended. During the show, Clint Howard mentioned an interest in a follow-up or remake: I could see that happening with some significant changes, such as losing the computer used in summoning. Overall, Evilspeak is one I would watch again, so I am giving it four out of five Cthulhus.(4 / 5)
Best Line: “There’s my fucking crowbar!” – Sarge, upon having located his crowbar.
The Day of the Beast (1995)
Opening: Subs vs. Dubs: No longer a fight just for anime nerds.
The Day of the Beast (in Spanish, El día de la Bestia) was my favorite of the night’s films and one of the best of the season. The movie is also one of the funniest ever aired on The Last Drive-In. Directed by Álex de la Iglesia and co-written by Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría the film stars Álex Angulo, Armando De Razza, and Santiago Segura. The Day of the Beast follows a priest, Ángel, and he commits as much evil as he can to find his way into a Satanic cult, believing that the AntiChrist will be born on Christmas Eve. He is aided by heavy metal fan José and TV occultist Cavan who quickly find themselves in the center of a Satanic storm.
I cannot stress enough how funny this movie is. Humor can be extremely subjective, and this can be especially true with the language and cultural barriers. What is hilarious in one context can be puzzling in another, such as wordplay in the form of idioms. A line may be hilarious in its original language, but translating it may kill it. The Day of the Beast doesn’t seem to have these issues because the gags are seemingly universal. At one point, Joe Bob mentioned Álex Angulo has an almost Buster Keaton type physicality, and that is a perfect description. A lot of the humor is physical, broad comedy. People being hit, shot, stabbed, chasing one another through rooms, being tied up. It sounds ridiculous, but it works. The central performances are also fantastic, with the three leads forming a trio that reminded me of The Three Amigos and evoked The Three Stooges at times. The film also serves as winning satire, an incredible feat given the potential language barrier and the stick issue of religion, but it absolutely sticks the landing.
All of the story-driven humor is accomplished through great storytelling. Another insight Joe Bob Briggs brought to his read of the film, one that blew my mind when he mentioned it, is that the film is essentially a retelling of Don Quixote, that Spanish literary classic. Ángel is Quixote with José as Sancho, and the journey reflects the themes and structure of the book. It is an awe-inspiring feat. The film has so much depth I am certain I have missed many details in my initial viewing, between note-taking and live-tweeting. It is one I am going to need to watch again.
The film is also gorgeous at times, with cinematographer Flavio Martínez Labiano really making Madrid look like a dirty, sinful place, but with special effects that most definitely show their age. One particularly comical rear-projected fall evokes feelings of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The bestial, demonic Satan depiction is entertaining, but again, a bit dated now, at least given the effects. For the time, though? Impressive. The gore is a bit limited as well, but it works, such as an incident involving a shotgun and an ear.
Joe Bob’s insights were great and layered in some solid social commentary and a little history – such as how the movie would fit into the history of the Spanish missionary wave in California. One of the more fun moments was him talking about his own time in Spain in his youth. College Joe Bob seemed super fun. What the heck happened? Hearing about the works of a director that I had not seen before was very fun and part of why I enjoy having Joe Bob pop up during the movies. I came out of The Day of the Beast with another five movies to watch.
The back half of the night had what I would argue to be the superior film. I’ve been poking fun at Joe Bob throughout the season for being a bit generous with his ratings, but I found it unfortunate that the superior of the two films, The Day of the Beast, only took three stars. I’m not in agreement, I think The Day of the Beast is a tremendously funny horror film, and I give it four and a half out of five Cthulhus. It’s just so damn good.(4.5 / 5)
Best Line: “You must help me contact the devil.” – Father Ángel, spoken like a true man of God.
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
As always, here are the official totals provided by the show.
As for our own totals…
- 10 dead dogs this season
- 2 Yuki Sightings
- 250 Clint Howard movies
- 24-hour shoot for floating Coopersmith
- A Dozen Hogs
- John Brennan Musical Number
- Gratuitous Public Access Occultism
- Surprise Opie
- Buddhist Joking
- Farmer Joking
- Foot Crosses
- Burning Crosses
- Falling Crosses
- Digital Devilry
- Swine Fu
- Tron Fu
- E S T E B A N
- Darcy Cosplays: Ms. Heavy Artillery and Devil’s Night Darcy
- Silver Bolo Award: Bloodbath and Beyond
It was another fine night at the drive-in. I appreciate the show because I end up having a great time from week to week, even if the movies were awful. Such is the case with last week’s offerings, yet the whole night ended up being a blast. Sometimes I worry the reviews sound the same week to week because of this. It’s all Joe Bob’s fault for having such a remarkably consistent show.
It’s gonna be a bummer of a couple of months until we get our next, inevitable mini-marathon.(4 / 5)
Join us this Friday on Twitter as we live-tweet the season finale. Will we finally get Halloween III? Probably not! I bet that one of the movies will be Another WolfCop. Will it be fun? Most certainly!