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Demon Hunter (2005)

Director: Scott Ziehl
Starring: Sean Patrick Flannery, Billy Drago
Rated R 78 min.

Sean Patrick Flannery stars as the half-human, half-demon Jack Greyman. Greyman is a motorcycle riding, trench coat wearing badass who works as a sort of devil exterminator for the Catholic church. A sudden escalation in violent possessions occurs thanks to a demon named Asmodeus (Billy Drago). It turns out that Asmodeus is attempting to impregnate a slew of attractive young ladies so that he can sire a race of demon-babies that will do his bidding on Earth. Greyman reluctantly teams up with a pretty nun to stop the lecherous demon before he can cause any more trouble.

DEMON HUNTER was produced by TV vet Stephen J Cannell, which might explain why the production looks and feels like something that might debut on the Syfy channel. In fact, if not for a couple of topless scenes, you might think this was an unsold pilot for a television series. It’s more of an action film with some horror elements, and not a very good one at that. Sean Patrick Flannery is a good actor who should really be in better movies. Here the script only requires him to throw a few punches and brood, while doing his best grizzled, world weary badass shtick. Billy Drago is, well, Billy Drago. Again, there isn’t much asked of him except to play the same snake-like villain he’s been playing since INVASION USA. Drago gets to make out with several hot and naked chicks in this, so this might end up being one of his favorite film jobs. The most interesting part of this movie, for me, was Tania Deighton as the sexy succubus dispatched to seduce Greyman into letting all this Antichrist business slide. She’s so good looking you can almost ignore her rubber horns, stupid looking CGI wings, and bad acting. This film also has a truly Terri how "heavy metal" soundtrack that sounds like stock music made for beer commercials.

Aside from a couple of very attractive breasts, there isn’t much to see here.

Tania Deighton as a succubus in DEMON HUNTER

Scalps (1983)

Director: Fred Olen Ray
Starring: Jo Ann Robinson, Richard Hench, Roger Maycock, Frank McDonald,
Rated R 82 min.

A goofy and unethical archaeology professor sends his students deep into the California desert to explore an Indian burial ground. Along the way, they encounter a gas station Indian who warns them that the land is protected by a terrible curse, and the spirits won't be pleased about a bunch of kids screwing around out there. They don't listen, of course. The students begin to regret this decision when a very unhappy demon named Black Claw appears to exact a bloody revenge.

With bad acting and terrible dialogue wrapped around a dumb story, SCALPS isn't a "good" movie in the traditional sense. It's even more damaged by some mind-boggling editing decisions (flash forward scenes of each character's death are shown early in the movie) made, according to Fred Olen Ray, by an unscrupulous distributor. This act removed all of the tension from a movie that didn't have much to begin with. This same distributor also had the brilliant idea to incorporate test shots of a very silly looking lion-man character who wears a mask that's only point of articulation is an Elvis-style lip sneer. There's also a very awkward, out-of place cameo by Forrest J. Ackerman in which he shamelessly plugs his book "Mr. Monster's Movie Gold."

The lion man, SCALPS

Forrest J. Ackerman runs into the professor (Kirk Alyn)
That said, SCALPS does have that odd, somewhat endearing quality you'll find from these early slashers. The desert landscapes and the grainy 16mm photography give the movie an occasional atmosphere of doom and foreboding, which quickly dissipates the moment a character speaks. The greatest thing about SCALPS, however, are the effects from Bart Mixon, John McCallum, and Chris Biggs. None of them are very convincing (with the exception of a very well-done scalping), but they are all gory and fun.

Made for peanuts over the course of several long weekends, SCALPS was a movie that seemed to be doomed from the start. As Ray (and longtime collaborator T.L. Lankford) relate in the commentary, this movie required a massive amount of work and sacrifice to make, yet had almost no payoff whatsoever. The movie was essentially stolen from them almost immediately, and while the various distributors made a killing off the movie, Ray and Langford never saw a dime of it. This version of SCALPS, Ray says, is the most complete version ever seen, yet it is still not the movie he intended to make. Ray and Lankford are open and honest about the end result, but you can hear that a twinge of heartache still exists over thirty years later. They maintain a sense of humor, though, and provide a very insightful and entertaining commentary about their not-so-good slasher.

While not a good movie, SCALPS is a ragged and gory little flick that provides some thrills and some unintentional laughs. The real reason to check this disc out is the commentary track, which should be of particular interest to aspiring filmmakers.

"Black Claw" from SCALPS