0 6 min 4 mths

It’s always a nuisance when you narrowly survive the rampage of a psycho killer. With a little bit of luck and a healthy spoonful of psychic powers one might just find themselves on the winning end of such an encounter. After that, the best thing is to capitalize on trauma. Might as well earn a buck or two for all your trouble, right?

Enter: Clementine Carver (Susan Priver), psychic and survivor of the psychotic murderer known as the Scalper. While being interviewed on a live radio show, the host opens the phones to allow the public to ask Clementine questions about her encounter. The first call through is from Carver’s friend, Jade Mei (Bai Ling). Before she can speak to the host, a masked man attacks her. To the horror of the host, the guest, and the entire listening audience, the audio of the brutal murder goes out over the air for all the city to hear.

Following the murder, Carver joins forces with Detective Hayden (Jake Busey) and his partner Detective Lupino (Kate Patel). Together they investigate a new string of murders which seem all too familiar to Clementine. Is it a copy-cat, or could it be the Scalper himself, returned from the grave?

Scalper is the latest movie from writer/director Chad Ferrin. A follow-up to his 2021 film Night Caller, it is a filthy and offensive affair. I’m somewhat familiar with Ferrin’s work, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about him, filthy and offensive is something he excels at.

Scalper kicks things off in high gear. The opening scene features a homeless man brutalized by the titular Scalper. For the sake of the delicate readers out there, I won’t go into detail about what exactly the Scalper does, but for those of you who are particularly curious and don’t mind spoilers, you can look up Track 2 from Cannibal Corpse’s album The Bleeding. You’ll get the picture.

After two murders firmly establish the Scalper’s savagery, the stage is set for Clementine to lead the way in stopping the killer. Priver does a fine job as psychic-turned-reluctant-hero. A character straight out of a classic Giallo, Clementine tangles with the police who don’t trust her, ghosts who refuse to help her, and a killer who wants nothing more than to see her dead.

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One would expect Busey’s Detective Hayden to be the skeptic of the trio, but in a welcome upheaval of convention, Hayden is completely on-board accepting Clementine’s powers after only a few brief questions. It’s Detective Lupino who fills the role of cynical brick-wall, one who questions and undermines all of Clementine’s intuitions.

Though Clementine and Lupino have never met, there is some implied history between the two through mutual acquaintances. More than simple skepticism, Lupino harbors her own secrets which color the relationship between the women and threatens the trio’s investigation.

Credit to the strength of the movie, I was halfway through before I started to pick up on the fact that this might be a sequel. The dialogue was full of references to previous events and characters, and I just assumed that Ferrin had put in the legwork of developing an extensive network of worldbuilding to tell his story.

Clementine Carver, I am not.

In the latter-half of the story, Clementine uses her powers to communicate with the dead and view realms outside of our own, hoping to glean some information to solve the mystery of the Scalper’s identity. As the plot takes control, the violent mayhem takes a backseat, and the story starts to dip a little.

The movie never becomes boring, but after the absolute savagery of the opening sequences, the dreamscape and investigation scenes just don’t carry as much weight. While the finale is far from bloodless, the conclusion doesn’t quite pack the punch it should.

The biggest issue with Scalper is that the escalation of violence is in reverse order. The two murders at the start of the film are brutal and harrowing. There’s an expectation that the rest of the movie should only get further and further deranged. Unfortunately, that never happens.

Despite a comparably tame ending, Scalper is well worth watching. It’s a nice murder mystery with a touch of the supernatural to spice things up. The performances are great, and Ferrin’s willingness to be unabashedly brutal elevates the film to a must-see. The opening scenes may be a bit much for a casual watcher, but for the strong-stomached fans of classic Giallo films, Scalper is one you don’t want to miss.