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John’s Horror Corner: Scalps (1983), a Native American burial ground B-movie about a cave man shaman… or something.

March 25, 2020

MY CALL: This B-movie is disappointing even with low expectations. But… I’ll admit it gave me my share of giggles. MORE MOVIES LIKE Scalps: For much better Native American horror, I’d direct you to The Manitou (1978) and Creepshow 2 (1987).

Our very first image is of an incredibly ugly, almost Cro-Magnon-looking man sloppily decapitating someone.

This zany random opener is equal parts laughably awesome and laughably stupid. Then, continuing in the spirit of batshit randomness, we cut to a lion-headed shaman basically just snarling on a mountain top as some old man finds a Native American artefact and stabs himself in the throat. No sense will come of these scenes in the ensuing 80 minutes… and those were probably the best 2 minutes of the movie.

A group of college students set out on an extra credit archeological expedition to excavate artefacts from the same Native American site where all that aforementioned bonkers crap just happened. On their way they receive a warning from a weird gas station loiterer—but naturally, they ignore it. Among the students, the sympathetic DJ (Jo-Ann Robinson; Malicious, The Devil’s Dolls) never wanted to disturb the Native lands, likening the act to digging up their graves. She was right!

They quickly uncover several Native relics and strange things begin to happen. They are haunted by the lion-headed shaman, some mild supernatural manifestations are observed, and an exploding ghost shaman head in a campfire and possesses one of them (Richard Hench; Deep Space, Biohazard, Slaughterhouse Rock, The Tomb). Once possessed, he rapes, kills and scalps his girlfriend. Then he tries to kill the others.

After the gory opening scene, we wait an hour for any more excitement. There’s a really well executed throat slip followed by a scalping likely inspired by Maniac (1980). But most of the kills and all other action afterwards are pretty weak. When they defeat our black magic-practicing shaman, it couldn’t have been more boring and dumb. Director Fred Olen Ray (Biohazard, Evil Spawn, Deep Space) succeeds at making yet another film offering no more value than the intoxicated laughs you’ll get with your friends.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. midnightmoviemonster permalink
    March 28, 2020 11:41 am

    I had this DVD and offloaded it on Ebay because of how ungodly slow the actual film was. What’s there in terms of action and blood is pretty decent for this budget. I just didn’t have the patience for the wait.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      March 28, 2020 12:18 pm

      Yeah, a few really fun scenes patched together with drivel. Fred Olen Ray was no master of his craft. hahaha

      • midnightmoviemonster permalink
        March 28, 2020 1:09 pm

        I never really expect miracles lol. But a movie needs to actually MOVE. So much dead air. 😀

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