Sunday, March 2, 2008

Scalps (1983)

Top to Bottom: 1. Scalps is filled with strange images, often appearing as short flashes in the minds eye of the characters that add to the creepy atmosphere.
2. A scan of the UK VHS cover.
3. Scalps was originally released with The Slayer (1982) on a double feature VHS tape by Continental Video.
4. The uncut DVD by Retromedia features some colorful cover art

Cheese-meister Fred Olen Ray directed this odd supernatural slasher flick, with some pretty graphic gore and an incredibly eerie atmosphere. Of all the Fred Olen Ray films I’ve seen, and I’ve seen more than a few, I think this is by far his best one. It’s also one of his first. He pretty much went rapidly downhill after this, and descended into the world of b-grade sci-fi and softcore skin flicks. It’s a shame, although it’s pretty obvious why. Hollywood doesn’t reward art (sigh). Skin flicks make more money.
I once read a review of this film in which the viewer compared the first five minutes of this film to a documentary about the highways of America. There are long shots of the lonely roads that cut through the barren desert wastelands of the Southwestern United States accompanied by eerie music and sounds, similar to the kind heard in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The 16mm film used gives it a very soft look which helps set an atmosphere of gloom and dread. It’s almost easy to imagine you are watching some deranged killers home movies.
This film has a real mean streak to it, something that isn’t seen in most 80s horror films, especially those made by guys like Fred Olen Ray. It doesn’t play around when it gets violent. It’s one of those rare 80s amateur horror films that isn’t completely laughable. Sure, there are gorier and more action-packed films to be seen, but I would highly recommend this one to those looking for a slight change of pace from the usual 80s campy horror fare.

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