Scalps – USA, 1983 – reviews

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‘They came out of the grave… To get revenge!’

Scalps is a 1983 supernatural horror feature film directed by Fred Olen Ray (Biohazard; Star Slammer; Evil Toons) that revolves around a vengeful Native American spirit.

The movie stars Jo-Ann Robinson, Richard Hench, Roger Maycock, Frank McDonald, Carol Sue Flockhart, Barbara Magnusson, Kirk Alyn (from the 1948 Superman serial), Carroll Borland (Mark of the Vampire), Cynthia Hartline, and Forrest J Ackerman (editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland).

Scalps was released in 1983 by 21st Century Film Corporation but in his book The New Poverty Row Fred Olen Ray says that the distributors ripped the filmmakers off.


In the US, Scalps has been released by Retromedia as a 2,000 copy limited edition Blu-ray – available exclusively from – in 16×9 widescreen from a 2K HD scan of the 35mm negative, with censored sequences restored from an analog tape source. Includes the following special features:

  • Audio commentary by Fred Olen Ray
  • Remembering Scalps: interviews with Richard Hench, Frank McDonald, Chris Olen Ray and Fred Olen Ray
  • Trailer
  • Scenes from Stegg Dorr’s unauthorised remake, Blood Desert
  • Dustin Ferguson’s fan film Scalps 2: The Return of DJ


Six college archaeology students work on a dig in the California desert, despite the warnings of a professor and the town drunk. When the group digs around in a Native American burial ground for artifacts, they unleash the evil spirit of Black Claw. The spirit possesses one of the group and begins slaughtering them one by one…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Despite the low budget, Scalps has some pretty impressive deaths, a little too realistic some may say. The actual scalping scene is just as good as Savini’s in Maniac … These death scenes are made more powerful by the screaming, moaning, and thrashing of the actors … easily one of Ray’s darkest movies. A combination of desert landscapes and sinister soundtrack gives Scalps a gritty, nihilistic atmosphere.” Retro Slashers


“an entertaining enough slice of 80s horror for those seeking a painless 80 minutes of gore, bad hair, and desert madness.” DVD Drive-In

“It’s surprisingly gory and has a pretty rough rape scene in it considering Ray says in the commentary track that he’s never seen Last House on the Left because he doesn’t want to see graphic sexual violence. In fact, this flick was one of the most heavily censored movies of its time …” Cinemasochist Apocalypse


Buy Blu-ray:

Special features:

  • 2K Scan from the Original Negative with Censored Scenes Restored via Tape Sources
  • Brand New Audio Commentary track with Director Fred Olen Ray
  • Original 35mm Theatrical Trailer
  • “Remembering Scalps” New 22 Minute Retrospective featurette with Richard Hench, Frank McDonald, Chris Olen Ray and Fred Olen Ray.
  • Justin Kerswell on Scalps: A Slasher Experts View
  • 88 Films Trailer Reel
  • Reversible Sleeve featuring original poster artwork


“The main thing is of course the gore, and that’s graphic and sadistic. A realistic cut throat, a graphic scalping, something getting hit very hard in the back of the head, arrow-hits… it’s not as much as it seems, but gory and well made. The demon itself is quite… cheap, and looks more like a bit more advanced Halloween-mask. But I’ll buy that, seen worse.” House of Ninja Dixon


Buy Scalps on 20th Anniversary Special Edition DVD | Amazon Instant Video

“The sound and lighting might suck (or rule depending how you look at it) but the special effects are pretty gnarly! The throat slashing was very well done and the scalping is pretty decent, bringing out some Maniac vibes.” Rue Morgue

“It takes a while, but once the gloves are off Scalps does actually slip rather nicely into slasher movie territory … Admittedly, the possessed killer looks like the half-man half-ape in the seriously demented Mexican, wrestling horror flick, Night of the Bloody Apes (1969), but, naturally, that just adds to its cheesy low budget charm.” Hysteria Lives

“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 Chain Saw Massacre. The 16mm film used gives it a very soft look which helps set an atmosphere of gloom and dread.” The Trashy Horror Charlie Show

” … an inept piece of bare bones film-making. It’s notable for the rudimentary gore effects and the occasionally atmospheric soundtrack. But, as so it goes with most of his other 80′s horror/sci-fi outings, it’s advisable to watch it with friends. That way you can have more fun with the ‘bad movie qualities’ it has. Make this film better, and share the laughter.” Cult Reviews

Image credits: The Trashy Horror Charlie Show | Cult Trailers



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One Comment on “Scalps – USA, 1983 – reviews”

  1. Highly recommended, especially for the commentary. It details the incredible story of how they got royally screwed over by grindhouse distributor 21st Century and how the film, in it’s original form, is pretty much lost. The actual Horror parts makes one wish Fred Olen Ray spent more time making real Horror, rather than jokey tits and ass films.

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