Scalps (1983)

Scalps (1983)

They came out of the grave to get revenge.

A group of college students head out to an ancient Indian burial ground to dig for artefacts where one of them becomes possessed by a vengeful Native spirit and begins to kill off his friends.


I can’t recall too many slasher films where boredom has been the main killer as opposed to some guy in a mask but Scalps manages to instantly rise to the front of the pack in that respect. It’s been near impossible to find on VHS or DVD for years and there’s definitely a good reason for that – no one in their right mind would want to watch this unless you suffer from insomnia. I really can’t see why this gets so many positive reviews from people. Displaying the “one of the most censored films in history” tag like a badge on honour on the DVD sleeve, Scalps just isn’t what it’s cracked up to be and certainly not deserving of such a tag.

The first half of the film is incredibly dull and long-winded. It takes far too long for the students to arrive at the burial ground so if slow burners are your thing, then this will be right up your alley. However I like my slasher films a bit more even-paced and the wait between the token opening scene kill and the eventual ‘massacre’ at the end is just a little too long and drawn out. Unfortunately, the script blows one of its biggest set pieces to kick off the film and it leaves a disappointing taste in the mouth when it doesn’t deliver more of the same and deliver it quicker. There is too much aimless driving, too much walking and definitely too much talking going on. It’s filler of the lowest quality and with the film’s running time as low as it is, you don’t really need to pad it out anymore with constant shots of the characters walking around the desert.

It’s not like we’re even interested in these characters because they’re just not engaging in the slightest. The script is laden with terrible lines but in better hands, at least they may have made something of it. The acting is terrible although the poor sound quality certainly doesn’t help them. Some scenes are too loud. Others seem to lack sound at all. Scalps could definitely work as one of those films where you ad-lib your own dialogue because it’s much more fun!

Thankfully things pick up towards the final twenty minutes when one of the characters is possessed and finally starts dishing out some Native Indian revenge. The film then shifts into more familiar exploitative territory with gore and rape the order of the day. I still can’t understand how this has become one of the most censored films in history. There’s only one scalping for crying out loud! The title clearly stated ‘Scalps’ which is plural. It’s the film’s best moment however despite the best efforts of the make-up team to botch the job done. Maybe the grainy quality of the film helps the effect look a little more brutal and realistic that it clear was. At least it is gory.

There’s also a half-decent slow-motion chase scene which is ruined by some awful day-for-night cinematography. But cherry picking this film for entertainment is a near impossible task and sitting through this arduous endurance test is just not worth seeing some half-assed gore effects for.


Scalps will test the patience of even a die hard Fred Olen Ray connoisseur. It may be book-ended with gore moments that will satisfy but it’s the other fifty or so minutes that will have you reaching for the stop button long before the end.





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