Horror – Starring Neve McIntosh, Dean Andrews, Linzey Cocker, Shaun Dooley. Written by Alan Pattison, Colin O’Donnell and Lawrence Gough. Directed by Lawrence Gough (2009)
I’ll admit it, I wanted to watch Salvage because it was filmed on the vacant Brookside set. Remember Brookside, Channel 4’s Liverpudlian soap, axed in 2003? Oh and because the premise sounds terrifying, and I like being terrified. It’s Christmas eve and Jodie (Linzey Cocker) is reluctantly spending the holiday with her estranged mother, Beth (Neve McIntosh). But when armed military storm the otherwise quiet cul-de-sac where Beth lives, ordering everyone to stay inside with all doors and windows locked, the residents are caught up in a panic and paranoia inducing nightmare. Phones, mobile and landlines, are down and the power is cut, sealing the residents off from the outside world.
This is a film that relies heavily on the ‘Unknown Enemy’, and the first time I watched it, after its release in 2009, I did get carried along on the wave of suspense … ‘See, I told you this trip was a bad idea,’ Jodie says to Clive, her father, when the car breaks down en route to dropping her off at Beth’s house, raising expectation of the terrible events to come. A shipping container has been washed up on a beach not far from Beth’s home, and precedes some grizzly deaths. What or who is doing the killing? Terrorists? Something from beyond the grave? But, just like 2001’s Jeepers Creepers and 2002’s Long Time Dead, the suspense fails to continue past the unsatisfactory monster reveal, and all that’s left is an average, somewhat flawed, and, in places, just plain stupid plot.
One problem with the film is that the characters make stupid choices throughout. When Jodie arrives at her mother’s house, she walks in on Beth having sex with a stranger. Not what you’d expect from a mother, estranged or otherwise, who is expecting her daughter for Christmas. Maybe wrapping gifts and putting up a few decorations would have been a better move? Jodie storms off to a neighbour’s house where she remains for much of the film, while Beth attempts feebly to reach her once the violence kicks off.
There is too much reliance on shock tactics to disguise the lack of intelligent plot. Bloody hands slam against a windowpane; Beth is grabbed from behind by an unseen, knife wielding assailant while investigating the neighbour’s blood splattered house. No worries, though, it’s just Kieran (Shaun Dooley), or random sex guy, coming to inform her that he’s seen someone out back. Perhaps a polite ‘excuse me’ would have been a better way to get her attention?
There is a bizarre moment towards the film’s climax when Beth hears someone relieving themselves in her bathroom. Thinking that it must be Jodie back from the neighbour’s, Beth is shocked to see a wide-eyed Jodie emerge from a bedroom. The monster is in the bathroom. This is a genuinely tense moment, that is until it dawns on you that the monster – the same savage monster that has been tearing residents and armed military to pieces – is taking a leak in the bathroom … ?! And, to its credit, it flushes. But to push things even further into the realm of the ludicrous, at the very moment Beth is contemplating what to do, Jodie’s phone rings. Um, hadn’t mobile and landlines been cut? This and other lapses in believability and consistency have a tendency to jolt you out of the story and halt enjoyment of the narrative.
Another of the film’s problems is that none of the characters are that likeable. Jodie seems nice enough but she clears off quite early on and isn’t seen again until the end. Beth’s confession that she ditched Jodie with her ex-husband so she could concentrate on becoming a lawyer did nothing to induce sympathy or understanding for her character. While Keiran starts off un-likeable, goes a bit mental, then redeems himself by turning out to be a regular guy who sees the error of his cheating ways, but just a little too late to save him from his fate in the narrative.
The armed military are hostile to the residents and apart from when Beth and Keiran drag one injured black ops back to the house – serving only as a prop to explain the whole medical experiment gone wrong story – there is never a moment of civilians and military coming together to fight against the greater foe. Instead, the military turn out to be just as big a threat to the residents, killing off any that the monster has missed.
Salvage is a low budget British film that does make an effort to chill. I enjoyed it more on the first viewing, but the plot is too weak, contrived and flawed to make it worth watching more than once. It is well acted; Neve McIntosh is great as Beth and carries the the whole film in a Ripley from Alien kind of way. It is well shot for the budget, only the rubbery 1950s B movie style monster letting it down. The music is suitably eerie and disjointed. And at only 76 minutes, I do think it’s worth checking out if you’ve not seen it before. Expect a few hold-your-breath moments and a scare or two. Just don’t expect a classic.
2 out of 5
Review by Lisa Richardson.