Monday, August 07, 2006

mind blowin' lion-head and exploding Indian head will fuck you up in Scalps (1983)

Things are not going well for all of us in Hollywood this week. Some of my friends are having trouble and today troubles started for me. I won't use this blog to air my personal dirty laundry, not yet, but for now will look to films as an escape, and will imerse myself in the study of this art form.

Scalps is the rare movie where the first half is better than the second half. Everything done to set up the mood here in the movie is fascinating and hypnotic. The first few scenes (after an early kill), where characters are introduced and there is light hearted banter, are set to ominous droning music creating a perhaps unintended, but disturbing effect. I think the composer may not have written any normal music for this movie and just delivered a shit load of creepy synth stuff. Well you have to pad the scenes with some music and this stuff worked out in the most interesting way.

Into the dessert go a bunch of college archeologists who of course pay no heed to the old Indian at the truck stop and his many warnings. At 1/4 of the way into the movie you'll think you've discovered a cinematic masterpiece. All the visuals omens of evil to come are fuckin beautifully shot and erie as hell. I love the disembodied Indian head with no eyes and the lion man, pictured in my
last entry, wow. Sadly, after the first slashing and scalping - a fantastic one I'll admit - it's like the movie stops trying. I know that the movie was probably not shot in chronological order scene by scene, but there is a general feel of a decline in quality as the movie rolls by.

I know there were budget constraints. For example, lighting problems that prohibited shooting at night. Only the campfire scenes are shot against black. When they cut to other scenes happening at the same time, well, it's pretty obvious that these were shot in the daytime and no matter how much I try to suspend disbelief, this sucks.

There is graphic violence in this movie, but most of the kills and the action don't live up to the epic imagery that sets this movie up... unfortunately... for a big fall. I still recommend Scalps, for it's beautiful moments. Some say it's the best movie Fred Olen Ray ever directed. It's definitely his best that I've seen.


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