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Shaun vs. Scalps (1983)

scalpsArchaeological college students head out into the desert to dig up an ancient native burial ground, which of course is a big no no.  The spirit of a native named Black Claw comes back from beyond to kill the white man.


 

Judging a Book by its Cover

scalps

-Pretty bad ass looking native dude on the cover.  Is that his family floating in the background?

-“They” came out of the grave for revenge so there must obviously be more than one zombie ghost native killer.

-Look at the size of that scalp in his hand!  He scalps giants!

-There seems to be a fire in the background, is the more immediate danger the ghost or the fire?  So many issues for this movie to tackle.

 

 


Too intense for “civilized” audiences!

Directed by Fred Olen Ray

Starring Jo-Ann Robinson, Richard Hench and Forrest J Ackerman

Hey, tell me if you’ve heard this one before!  A group of, let’s say, archaeological college students go on a trip to an ancient native burial ground where a battle took place long ago.  Digging through the dirt, they find artifacts worth looking into all the while managing to piss off the spirit of one of those dead natives who then comes back from the dead to kill whitey.  It’s pretty much Horror 101, it covers all the general bases for a standard slasher flick as well as throwing in some supernatural elements to change things up a bit.

scalps2

Let’s dig in that pile of native shit, nothing can possibly go wrong, right?

While the majority of the cast are supposed to be college students, they act an awful lot like children, often arguing and complaining amongst each other just as a way to fill in dialogue for some scenes.  There’s an awful lot of it to get through too before anything of note really happens.  Eventually, one of the students is possessed by the spirit of Black Claw, one of the dead warriors, who then goes on a rampage in his new body.  The students fall victim to arrows, tomahawk blows, spears and then finished off with, of course, the scalping.  The movie title doesn’t disappoint!

scalps3

Go away, floating head!

The box cover on my Blu-ray (which looks terrible, by the way) touts the film is banned in many countries and I’m wondering if it’s more about the grisly deaths on screen or maybe it’s the subtle racial elements based on native Americans in film at the time.  I guess they’re saying if you’re going to get pissy over seeing people killed by a white guy pretending (possessed remember?) to be a native, maybe don’t watch it.

scalps4

You paid to see scalping, here ya go!

Once the film decides it wants to get serious, things do get bloody fast with the majority of the kills pulled off competently enough for such a low budget film.  I have to single out the scene where Black Claw kills a victim via bow and arrow because those arrows look like they did as much damage as a Nerf dart.  One or two were propped up straight but the rest were hilariously hanging on for dear life.  Aside from that scene, most of the kills are nice, gooey and up close.

scalps5

Wake me up when something interesting happens. Hello?

Overall, it’s a movie that asks for a lot of your time delivering hammy acting, mediocre dialogue and just enough of a story to explain the supernatural shenanigans that will happen later on if you can make it that far.  There’s a fair amount of unintentional humour if you’re into that, which should get you through to the good stuff that unfolds in the last third but otherwise it’s not an easy recommendation.

TL;DR

Story: 4 – White kids dig up a native burial ground, naturally pisses something off and they get tomahawked to death.  It’s so obvious, they should have seen it coming.  Poltergeist came out a year before too.

Blood: 6 – The film delivers enough in the red department with a slit throat or two, a decapitation and some scalp removal among a few other scenes.

Nudity: 3 – Some female boob meat and male butt in a rape scene, meh.

Overall: 4 – As a re-release, it may be interesting to older fans for another chance to experience Scalps but for newcomers there isn’t much to recommend.

Trivia

-According to director Fred Olen Ray this film was severely re-edited without his consent by the distributor at the time of its release. Scenes were added out of context which threw off continuity and gave away major spoilers such the fates of most of the characters as well as test footage that was never intended to be included in the released film.

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