Salvage (2009)

AUGUST 20, 2010


After reading about it in Rue Morgue and Fangoria, I was pretty excited to watch Salvage (not the Groundhog Day in Hell one), as it sounded like a unique blend of home invasion and monster movie, and it was also independent, which meant it might have some balls. And while it wasn’t exactly a grand slam (maybe a triple), I was satisfied with the end result, despite some budgetary limitations keeping the film a bit inert for a while (which is a bit of a problem when the film is only 75 minutes long).

It also has an awkward transition in protagonist. For the first 10 minutes or so, we are with a teenager whose parents have split, who stays with the dad for the most part but is off to spend Christmas with her mother, with whom she does not get along. So you’re probably thinking, “OK, they get together, start arguing, and then the monster comes and they’re forced to cooperate”. But instead, the daughter gets mad at the mom (or mum, I guess, since this is British) and goes across the street to her friend’s house, and then we don’t see her again until the final moments of the film, staying with the mom instead. But the shit hits the fan almost instantly after that, so our hero is now someone we only know from her sexual prowess (the daughter got mad because the mom – our hero – was fucking (shagging) some dude she picked up at a bar). It’s a bit disorienting, and takes a while to recover.

Also, the big centerpiece “action sequence” is when the mom and her fella leave their house... and go into an almost identical looking house. It’d be like if at the end of Dawn of the Dead they just went to another mall. So the movie just sort of restarts, as the same sort of stuff happens there (people trying to get in, some info leaks from wounded military folks, etc). Luckily, by this point we’re a bit more familiar with our main two characters, so at least the awkwardness is gone, but it’s still a bit too moebius-like. I wish they had simply shown what was happening to the daughter and her friend at the other house, though I understand the need to keep the audience in the dark just as much as its primary character.

Otherwise, it’s a solid, unique film. I like that they never stop the movie cold to deliver all the exposition – we get it in little pieces throughout. And the suspense bits work, particularly when the mother of the friend tries to get in, which the mom is OK with but the guy is against (as are we, presumably, since the mom has a suspicious orange tag on her wrist). It’s in these moments that the film has a bit of a The Thing motif going on, where your suspicions and paranoia are just as dangerous as the actual threat.

I also liked the mutant design, though you never really get a perfect look at him. He actually looks a bit like Victor Crowley, but I wasn’t really expecting a human looking monster – I figured it was some sort of creature. I think they could have done a little more with the crate that he escaped from, but those nasty budget problems forced them to drop such a sequence and set the entire thing pretty much where he ends up, with the crate only living on in news broadcasts (this also sort of took the point of the film’s title away, but oh well).

Those issues are discussed at length in the commentary, which is good except for the fact that I couldn’t tell who was who most of the time (there’s like 4 guys in there, including the director and the main actor). But they talk a lot about the things that they had to change, the difficulties in shooting, and point out that they used real houses with natural lighting, which made things trickier but gave the film a real look that a lit set can never match (it also looks pretty good for HDV). And since the movie’s so short, you really can’t go wrong with taking another look with their track (unless you hated it, of course). The other extras are eh – a behind the scenes collection that’s about as random as they get, and some interviewzzz. I was hoping for deleted scenes, but I guess the film was short not because of a worried producer, but because they didn’t get to shoot everything they wanted to begin with. That said, the film still turned out quite good, and honestly if I hadn’t read the articles beforehand (where they also discussed having to change the script based on their resources), I probably wouldn’t even have suspected it was a modified story. So ignore the articles, ignore me, and check out the film!

What say you?

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  1. I enjoyed it, but will probably forget about it in a few years. Agree about the two strange plot tunrs: switching protagonists in the beginning, and the repeat of the "identical" house set piece in the 2nd/3rd acts.

  2. I really enjoyed this film and think the switch at the beginning is a pretty bold move. Plus it kind of works - you're sympathetic towards the daughter at the beginning so when the mother becomes the protagonist you want her to succeed (despite the fact that she's not that sympathetic a character to begin with) for the daugher's sake. Definitely has its limitations but a good effort for a low budget horror film.


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