First I'd like to apologise for the lateness of this review, I normally post on a Friday evening but sadly events forced me to delay it until this morning! Oh wow. This is 80’s cheese at its upmost cheesiest. Now depending on your opinion that can either be a good or a bad thing. Personally whilst Scalps is extremely bad, I did get one or two tiny kicks out of it. Admittedly though it’s not something I’m ever going to go back to, I had enough trouble sitting through it in the first place, falling asleep twice and having to watch it in several short sections just to finish the damn thing. It attempts to follow the standard slasher format but no deaths occur until the last twenty minutes or so. The characters are all ridiculously bland, having no substance at all and any chance to expand on themes presented to the viewer is wasted. Scalps does have some interesting ideas but the plot is simply too thin, the budget too low and no attempt is made to escape its Grindhouse origins. Still if you enjoy extremely low budget 80’s horror then there may be some enjoyment to be found, but it’s nowhere near as fun as other B movies from the same period and sadly- it just doesn’t try to be.
Scalps follows a group of College kids as they go into the desert to dig for ancient Indian artefacts. However some of the dead are pretty pissed off about having their graves digged up and so possess one of the groups turning him into a hideous monster. He systematically hunts down and kills the rest...
That’s it. Literally that is all that happens. Ok so there’s the weird nerdy girl who tries to warn everyone but nobody listens and then there’s the mention of the ancient Indian Warlord Black Claw. The thing is neither of these points goes anywhere all there is plenty of opportunity too. For example the nerdy girl (DJ), is constantly annoying every single one of the teens aside from one, who it’s suggested might have a romantic fling with her. Well this never goes anywhere except he seems to gradually get pissed off with her as well. Towards the end she’s just speaking doom and gloom, when one character is worrying where her boyfriend has got to she even spits out “He’s dead!” The amount of times she upsets people and considering how much they picked on her at the start, well you kind of expect this to go somewhere, maybe have one of the characters finally loose it and attack her, but they just ignore her and let her go! The black claw stuff is even more annoying. Ten minutes before the credits role we are told that the main spirit haunting the group is one of and Indian Warlord called Black Claw, who apparently dabbled in all sorts of black magic rites. That’s all we’re told though. It’s the kind of thing that appears as if it was just thrown out on set, as if one of the crew said “Hey let’s put in a line about a guy who did black magic!”. Because it goes nowhere and was never mentioned before. Instead of things that would have been interesting to watch we get stuck with shot after shot of the teens walking through the desert and boring talk. There’s also a lion creature/spirit thing, but yet again it goes nowhere and it must be on screen all together for 20 seconds tops.
Admittedly there were two things about scalps I did like, the atmosphere and the use of the Indian Spirits as the killers. In its 80 minute run time it did manage to build up a genuinely spooky feel. There were several shots of the hills and the deserts that evoked a feel that the main characters really are on their own; no one will be coming to help them. Yet at the same time despite being constant shots of open spaces it also managed to appear vaguely claustrophobic. The music, whilst hardly being original helps create this desolate feel and although it isn’t unique of low budget movies from this period it is at least one of the few things in the film done well. Another point about the film I enjoyed is that it’s one of few horror movies to concern Native American Indian myths and legends. Very few movies have taken advantage of this over the years and it’s a real shame as when scalps is using this effectively is when scalps is at its best and without a doubt its most interesting. The makeup on the various creatures is also well done, don’t get me wrong it isn’t as effective as it could be but it suits the cheesy feel.
Scalps is never going to win any awards. It isn’t supposed to but it’s also not as enjoyable as one expects it was supposed to be. Taking itself too seriously but yet not having enough plots to be a serious film. It delivers when it comes to gore and sex (a rather pointless and utterly ridiculous rape scene included) but not extremely well and so many other movies do it better. Indeed the only real point of interest in scalps is its use of Native American Myths and legends. Indeed before writing this, I did a bit of research and I could find very few films that take advantage of this element of American history. There are several ones of interest for example Night of the Hawk (1976) and The Manitou (1978) but there’s surprisingly little compared to all the other genres that have been done to death.
Welcome one and all- Please leave sanity at the door
A Teenage boy with a passion for all things nerdy! Expect a lot of Doctor Who, Cult/Horror Movies, Literature and Novels, History, Comic Books and random thoughts. Posts published weekly on a Friday evening. DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the items reviewed on this site and i also do not own of the pictures (unless stated so). If you own one of the photos and wish for it to be removed contact me at this adress: Super.firstname.lastname@example.org. However all of the written work is my own and is protected under copyright law.