Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 14th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1983
Director: Fred Olen Ray
Writers: Fred Olen Ray, T.L. Lankford, John Ray
Cast: Jo-Ann Robinson, Richard Hench, Roger Maycock, Frank McDonald, Carol Sue Flockhart, Barbara Magnusson, Kirk Alyn
BluRay released: April 4th, 2016
Approximate running times: 83 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
BluRay Release: 88 Films
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £14.99
First and foremost, this film’s most durable asset is its premise. And right from the get go this fusing of the supernatural with the elements that have since become synonymous with the Slasher genre is another inspired choice. Another way where this film sets itself apart from its contemporaries is the way its maintains a menacing tone despite their first hour of the film being virtually bloodless. Fortunately, once the red stuff starts flowing it continues to flow until there is no one left to kill. And when it comes to all of the kills they are well executed and sufficiently gory.
From a production stand point the film does a great job when it comes to using its surroundings. Another strength of this film is the way it effectively uses pacing and this is most evident during the first hour of the film has a deliberate pacing that relies more atmosphere, while the last twenty minutes of the film is more in line with what one would expect from a Slasher film.
Without a doubt the weakest area of this film are the performances and the cast are best described as adequate. Also this should not come as a surprise since this was the first film for the majority of the cast. With that being said, the most recognizable face in this film is Kirk Alyn (Superman – 1948, Atom Man vs. Superman) in the role of Professor Machen. This character is essentially a cameo role whose two scenes bookend this film.
Just when you had thought that the Horror genre had exploited every avenue. Along comes a film like Scalps that has for far too long flew under my radar.
Scalps comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This film was shot on 16mm and blowup to 35mm for its theatrical release. And for this release a brand new 2K Scan has been created from the Original Negative with Censored Scenes Restored via Tape Sources. Print debris and damage is minimal and never intrusive. The image generally looks crisp, colors look accurate and there are no issues with DNR or comparisons. It should be noted that the censored moments that have been restored for this new transfer / release are sourced from tape masters and no film elements are known to exit. Needless to say there is a drop in quality when these moments arrive.
This release comes with one audio option, LPCM mono mix in English. Dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. Also the audio was created in post-production and at times its range and depth are rather limited.
Extras for this release include, a reversible cover art option, a trailer for the film (1 minute 52 seconds), an image gallery with music from the film playing in the background, a featurette titled Justin Kerswell on Scalps: A Slasher Experts View (10 minutes 4 seconds), a featurette titled Remembering Scalps (21 minutes 20 seconds) and a brand new audio commentary with director Fred Olen Ray.
Topics discussed in the extra titled Justin Kerswell on Scalps: A Slasher Experts View include, how the film is one of few Indian themed slasher films, horror / slasher films that inspired Scalps, his thoughts about the film and critical reaction to the film.
Topics discussed in the featurette titled Remembering Scalps include:
Fred Olen Ray: How he wrote the firs draft of the screenplay in twenty-four hours, the film was shot on 16mm and budgeted at about 15 thousand dollars, locations featured in the film, casting choices, how he was not involved with this film’s initial release and how he had not seen the complete version until he watched via the brand new transfer created from the film’s original negative.
Richard Hench: How he convinced Fred Olen Ray to cast him in the film and his experiences involving special effects makeup.
Frank McDonald: How he got cast and his experiences making this film and how this film’s cult film status surprises him.
Chris Olen Ray: Special effects makeup and various other one set memories.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary track include, censorship issues with the film and trying to correct them for this release, a proposed sequel and a unofficial completed sequel, the new transfer and why he had to re-frame the image, guerrilla filming and shooting on location, the cast and information about them and other production related topics.
Rounding out the extras is an 88 Films trailer gallery which contains the following films, The Children of the Corn, Don’t Go into the Woods, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man, Mother’s Day, Slaughterhouse, Trancers and Splatter University. Overall Scalps gets an exceptional release from 88 Films, highly recommended.
Note: This film is also being released by 88 Films on DVD.