Horror Movie Review: Scalps (1983)


Written & directed by Fred Olen Ray, Scalps is a 1983 horror based around a vengeful Native American spirit that possesses a group of college kids on an archaeological dig.

As 80’s horror as they come, Scalps is a rough watch. Cheaply made & filmed with a plot that struggles to keep its head above water & some laughably bad effects. The less said about the acting, the better. At its best, cringe-worthy & at its worst, unwatchable.

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Six college archaeology students head out to work on a dig in the Californian desert ahead of their professor who is delayed by a few days. Before they set out he warns them to not dig up any Native American artefacts, something that the group ignore as soon as they arrive.

When they start digging they unleash the spirit of Black Claw, a vengeful Native American who possesses one of them before killing all the rest. Turning into a boorish slasher flick, Scalps will barely hold your interest for its 82 minute run time.

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Ultimately a simple story about greed & dis-respecting the dead, one of the major issues with Scalps is the editing. It’s cut to pieces & often all over the place. According to Olen Ray the cut they gave to the distributor wasn’t like this but they mistakenly gave over the bits they pulled out too. The distributor then added them back in, seemingly at random.

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Whatever happened, the final result is not coherent. Add that to the diabolically bad lighting & what you have is near unwatchable. The only real positive is the gory moments, a throat slashing & scalping in particular having a nasty realistic look.

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The low budget nature has been compared to The Evil Dead but whereas that movie is entertaining, Scalps is not. It’s not scary no matter how hard it tries with ominous music, Native American drumming & bad dialogue.

“Those drums are from…hell!”

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Scalps
  • 2/10
    The Final Score - 2/10
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