Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Neve McIntosh, Lindsey Cocker, Shaun Dooley
Directed by Lawrence Gough
Distributed by Revolver Entertainment
In some ways Salvage shares some parallels with REC, albeit without the distinctive cinéma-vérité style. But the premise of innocent people besieged by a malevolent force while trapped in their homes by an increasingly sinister military will make you think of the Jaume Balagueró/Paco Plaza film on more than one occasion.
And like REC, the idea of throwing unsuspecting people headfirst into a horrible situation is the film’s greatest strength – hardly a new invention in this genre. Here, it’s a teenage girl (Lindsey Cocker) reluctantly made to spend Christmas vacation with her estranged mother (Neve McIntosh). The beginning of the film finds her dropped off in the sleepy cul-de-sac neighborhood only minutes before a black ops military unit comes sweeping through the streets, forcing the residents to remain in their homes.
One of the film’s greatest strengths is that the audience, like its characters, is never fully in the ‘know’. Hints are dropped along the way as to what’s happening, but beyond the mysterious shipping container that has washed up on a nearby shore, we’re never given concrete details on the ‘why’, turning Salvage into a simple story of desperate survival. It’s the mother who takes center stage throughout the course of the brisk seventy-six-minute run time as she makes every attempt to find her daughter amidst an outbreak of gruesome chaos.
Director Lawrence Gough is obviously working on a limited budget, which benefits the proceedings tremendously. Avoiding the tedium of another military quarantine movie, the story is pared down to character-driven basics with some of its most effective bits being quiet dialogues between our survivors. The small cast is developed nicely so that would-be throwaways are given a chance to become living, breathing people. It makes a difference in a story this small because not everyone is going to survive, and the inevitable deaths come as a shock because we’ve gotten to know these people so well.
While short and sweet horror films can certainly pack a punch, the consolidated length is detrimental to these proceedings. The climax is gruesome and Gough manages some crisp moments of intensity, but it’s cut much too short as if the film is more afraid of overstaying its welcome than bringing the story to its proper close. It’s not the events of the ending that leave a rotten taste, either, rather the “gotcha” surprise followed by an almost instantaneous shift to the credits.
The creature is a disappointment, too. It can almost surely be attributed to the low budget of the production, but calling it the most disappointingly bland ‘monster’ in recent memory is an understatement. With the accent on quality performances and quieter moments of suspense, it’s not enough to cripple Salvage, but the hurried ending and lackluster villain result in something that isn’t quite as good as its earliest moments were perhaps suggesting.
Revolver Entertainment’s DVD offers a fairly impressive standard definition widescreen transfer with crisp colors and surprisingly deep black levels for SD. On the audio front, the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track won’t put your home theater speakers through the ringer, but the rear channels are pumped up with ambiance once the action kicks in. Audio is largely confined to the front speakers, where dialogue is always clear and audible.
Extra features are nothing to write home about, however. Even though it offers 45 minutes of cast and crew interviews, it’s a standard set of questions with even more typical answers. Big time fans might enjoy this, but it was a challenge getting through this prattle. Next up is ten minutes of behind-the-scenes material from the set, offering nothing terribly fun or exciting. Thankfully, there’s a lively commentary track by director Lawrence Gough, writers Colin O’Donnell and Alan Pattison and actor Shaun Dooley that should be your one-stop shop when it comes to this disc’s supplemental material.
Salvage is simple and engrossing, there’s no denying it. However, it’s also forgettable and lacking in the substance or innovation that warrants a tried and true recommendation. Perhaps saving it for a slow afternoon would be best.
3 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5