Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Neve McIntosh, Shaun Dooley, Linzey Cocker
Directed by Lawrence Gough
Distributed by Revolver Entertainment
I originally reviewed Salvage this past September, 2009, as part of our coverage of the Film 4 Frightfest film festival, and the beginning of this review is an abbreviated version of that one. For my full theatrical review of Salvage, click here.
The plot concerns the residents of a quiet British cul-de-sac whose lives are turned upside down when a shipping container is washed ashore approximately two miles away. In the beginning, we follow teenager Jodie (Linzey Cocker) as her dad takes her to spend Christmas with her estranged mother, Beth (Neve McIntosh). Relations are not good among the family, and Jodie would rather do anything else than visit her mother – an attitude which isn’t helped when she arrives to find Beth having sex with a random guy, Kieran (Shaun Dooley, last known to horror fans as the violent father of Brett in shocker Eden Lake). Jodie storms off to stay at a local friend’s home and Beth follows, attempting to apologise. At this point, the street is flooded with armed soldiers ordering everyone back indoors. When Asian neighbour Mr. Sharma appears from his house with a cleaver, covered in blood and screaming in Hindu, he is abruptly shot dead.
From there, panic and paranoia set in as the housebound residents attempt to make sense of the situation. As is to be expected, the shipping container contained something secret, nasty and very, very dangerous; and everyone soon finds themselves struggling to survive amongst the bloodshed – and a military that may not actually be there to help them escape after all.
The basic feeling of Salvage is that of social realist drama meets Alien – like somebody picked up a vicious creature and dropped it in the middle of a Ken Loach film to do its business, and it’s very effective. As soon as the military arrive, the main focus of the film (surprising considering the opening scenes) switches to Beth and her frantic attempts to get to Jodie and ensure she is safe while neighbours die around her. Trapped along with her is Kieran, a very well developed character who turns out to be not only adulterous, but a good “everyman”. He’s a little weak, but protective. He’s also a sucker for terrorist scaremongering, initially accepting the military cover-up regarding Muslim Extremist activity in the close before forcefully realising that they’re dealing with something very, very different. Every character has flaws but redeems them in a number of ways. In a low-budget, intimate flick such as this, characterisation and performances are key, and Gough and Co. have pretty much nailed it.
Along the way there’s plenty of violence and mayhem, with frenetic camerawork during the monster attacks actually working to the benefit of the film by not providing too good a look at the mediocre creature. A suitably bleak ending echoing Night of the Living Dead brings things to an emotional close. As mentioned earlier, this is very close to Alien in your backyard and certainly a ton more impressive as a British film than another generic football hooligan or gangster flick.
While it’s disappointing that Salvage hasn’t received the theatrical release it deserves, Revolver Entertainment’s DVD treatment does it a decent amount of justice. We receive a full commentary track featuring director Lawrence Gough, actor Shaun Dooley, writer Colin O’Donnell, and associate producer Alan Pattison. It begins a little rocky with Gough and Pattison’s voices being rather dreary and monotone, making it all feel very slow. As the film moves on, however, they all find their stride; and it becomes a much more interesting listen, including a few good shared laughs. One annoyance is that the film’s audio track doesn’t play along with the commentary, so the (infrequent) pauses feel awkward.
Next, we have a short but good Behind-the-Scenes featurette, which mainly consists of people horsing around on-set and a brief look at a couple of scenes being rehearsed and shot. The cast and crew here are all very likable and seem to be having a lot of fun, so it’s an entertaining watch for the ten minutes that it lasts.
Rounding this off, there’s a selection of cast and crew interviews including actors Neve McIntosh, Shaun Dooley, and Linzey Cocker; director Lawrence Gough; producer Julie Lau; executive producer Lisa Marie Russo; production designers Colin Taylor and Malcolm Smith; and finally prosthetics designer David Jones. Each interview runs around five minutes long with questions displayed on title cards between footage of each interviewee. The actors’ interviews are the best of the bunch as they exhibit a strong sense of humour and enthusiasm for the project.
Overall, it isn’t a bad package at all, but it would have been nice if Gough’s original short film that inspired Salvage had been included. It’s mentioned a few times in both the interviews and commentary, which makes its absence here all the more noticeable and grating. Despite that, it’s definitely recommended that you pick this one up. Not a fan of the new cover art, though.
4 out of 5
3 out of 5
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