Scalping, the act of taking off the scalp, or part of the scalp, either from a dead body or living person. Cinema has given us its fair share of gruesome deaths but none seem to be quite as cringe-worthy as watching a character getting scalped. These are the ten most memorable scalping scenes in film history.
10. Scalps (1983)
With a title like “Scalps” what do you really expect from a film? Directed by Fred Olen Ray, the film follows a half a dozen college archaeology students working on a dig in the California desert. When the group digs around in an Indian burial ground for artifacts, they set free the evil spirit of Black Claw. The spirit possesses one of the poor saps and proceeds to slaughter each member of the crew one by one, which includes several slow and agonizing scalping scenes.
9. Idle Hands (1999)
Idle Hands is one of the most underrated teen horror films of the ’90s. It had a young Jessica Alba in her bra and panties for goodness sake. The film follows a young man whose hand becomes possessed and goes on a killing spree, even after being cut off from his arm. In one of the most random cameos ever Dexter Holland (the lead singer of the punk rock band The Offspring) is playing at the film’s obligatory high school dance. The possessed hand then proceeds to scalp the guy right on stage. Poor Dex.
8. Creepshow 2 (1987)
Creepshow 2 was not as epic as its predecessor, but it still had its moments. The first segment (titled ‘Old Chief Wood’nhead’) featured a wooden cigar store Indian named “Old Chief Wood’nhead” who comes alive and gets bloody revenge against three local goons. After showing up at their house, he kills two of them while the third tries to lock himself in the bathroom. He tries to escape through a window, but Old Chief Wood’nhead breaks through the wall, grabs the goon by his long hair, pulls him through the wall, and scalps him. The sad thing is, the guy probably would have gotten away if it wasn’t for his ridiculously long hair.
7. Saw IV (2007)
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, the fourth installment of the Saw franchise features its fair share of innovative torturous traps. The most terrifying creation might just be, the “scalping seat” (or hair chair). A victim with long locks has their hair looped though a metal ring and wound around an axle. The axle slowly turns, tightening the hair with each rotation. If it goes on long enough, it will rip the person’s scalp off. Not fun.
6. Nurse Betty (2000)
Directed by Neil LaBute, Nurse Betty stars Renée Zellweger as a Kansas waitress who undergoes a nervous breakdown after witnessing her husband’s murder. Her husband (played by Aaron Eckhart) is killed quite gruesomely at the hands of two hit-men (played by Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock). Out of the blue Rock’s characters actually scalps the poor guy before he gets up and runs around for a few moments with his scalp peeled halfway back. Quite random, but gruesome nonetheless.
5. House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
In Rob Zombie’s directorial debut, the beautiful and psychotic Baby Firefly (played by Sheri Moon Zombie) plays a deadly guessing game with Jerry (played by Chris Hardwick). If he can guess who her favorite movie star is, she’ll let him go, if he can’t, he’s dead. James guesses Marilyn Monroe but, nope, Bette Davis would be the correct answer. She then proceeds to scalp poor James mercilessly. Geez. Thank goodness no other game-shows have these kind of stakes.
4. Maniac (2012)
The 1981 slasher film Maniac was one of the first of the genre to employ the violent and sensationalistic act of scalping. The story follows the relatively straightforward story of a disturbed and traumatized serial killer who scalps his victims. The film was remade in 2012 by director Franck Khalfoun, starring Elijah Wood in the lead role. So, whether you’re only familiar with the latest film or if you’ll always pledge allegiance with the original version, one thing is sure. The scalping scenes in either film are completely awesome.
3. Hannibal (2001)
Picture it, a graceful dinner prepared by the notorious Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Both of his guests—Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) and Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta)—have been drugged. One of them has had the top of their skull sawed open, take a guess which one. Lecter then proceeds to make the poor guy eat pieces of his own brain. Now, many people have wondered…is this possible in real life. Well, yes it is. Assembling such a scene would require a neurosurgeon of high skill and access to suitable drugs. In the movies, at least, we’re led to believe Hannibal Lecter has these prerequisites. So, be afraid!
2. Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)
In Quentin Tarantino’s epic revenge flick, Uma Thurman plays The Bride. A former assassin who is now on a deadly trail of revenge. At the end of the film she goes head to head with O-Ren Ishii (played by Lucy Lui). After The Bride takes out dozens of her henchman, the two have a sword fight that ends with The Bride scalping O-Ren with one thrust of her blade. That’s one sharp sword!
1. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Once again Quentin Tarantino pops up on the list, but this time for his WW2 war epic Inglourious Basterds. Brad Pitt plays Lieutenant Aldo “The Apache” Raine, and there is one thing that he truly hates…and that’s Nazis. In fact he requires every member of his unit to deliver 100 Nazi scalps as a debt to him personally. Well, you can’t say they didn’t have it coming.