Writing in The New Poverty Row, director (and one-time professional wrestler) Fred Olen Ray recalls how his business partner “thought he could raise the needed capital (approximately $9,000) to make the ultimate low budget movie (six kids, a station wagon, and a tent).” Now, $9,000 doesn’t really sound like enough to ensure a quality production… and it isn’t. Scalps, by Mr. Ray’s own account, is overexposed, out of focus, and ludicrously edited.
But it’s hard (at least around these parts) to completely dislike a movie which features a decapitation where the victim’s head starts to fall off before the blade ever touches his neck. Plus, the shrunken apple head Indian puppet which occasionally materializes for no good reason is oddly endearing. And there are actually a few scenes in which the combination of grainy film stock and Carpenter-esque synthesized music manage to create a palpable atmosphere of dread. This last point is due, in part, to the inclusion of the supernatural element. While the consequences of desecrating Indian burial grounds became as much a cliché of 80s horror movies as the unstoppable madman, the combination of the two in Scalps makes it kind of unique and halfway watchable.
You know, it’s almost tempting to side with Scalp’s enraged Indian spirit after his sacred space is violated. As the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia reminds us, “The Christian, indeed, believes that God is everywhere and that the Divine Immensity fills all space; but this faith does not exclude the idea of reserving a special spot in which the creature may hold communion with his Creator and worship Him.” And as we see in this week’s first reading where Moses first encounters God on Mt. Sinai and is instructed to “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”, that’s an idea God encourages.
The Code of Canon Law explains that “Sacred places are those which are assigned to divine worship or to the burial of the faithful by the dedication or blessing which the liturgical books prescribe for this purpose… In a sacred place only those things are to be permitted which serve to exercise or promote worship, piety and religion. Anything out of harmony with the holiness of the place is forbidden.” So anytime we enter into a church, we are on holy ground and should act accordingly. As Bishop Joseph Perry notes, “While we strive to see holiness first in each other, there is still room for an essential reverence paid the sacred place of the assembly and the objects, vessels and appointments used in worship. In fact, disrespecting the house may well indicate a disrespect for those who live in the house.” And while such disrespect probably won’t cause God to send angry spirits to lob off our heads, it might not be a bad idea to do a little genuflecting and maintain a respectful silence just to be sure.