Time for a different sort of film for us here at the ol’ Litterbox (Just to prove your Favorite Catgirl isn’t just all about Asian movies….), so this time out we have the UK Region 2 release “Salvage”.
Our synopsis goes like this: “Christmas Eve, and the residents of a quiet British cul-de-sac are suddenly plunged into a world of violence, terror and paranoia when a group of heavily armed military personnel storm their road ordering them at gunpoint to retreat inside their homes. Unsure if this is the sign of a terrorist attack, or something much worse, one local mother finds it in herself to desperately fight to save her estranged daughter stranded across the street. However, with growing dread, the residents soon discover that the threat is more monstrous than any of them could possibly imagine, and survival is no longer a guarantee.”
When I ran across this one, I was thinking it’s going to be some sort of Zombie movie…. Mmmmmm!!! Zombies are always good for an evening’s movie watchin’ entertainment and the Trailer makes me think that’s not too far from the mark, but horror movies often have a way of going differently than you think they might sometimes, and once in a while…. if it quacks like a duck it might just really turn out to be an animal of an all too different sort.
But…. as always, your Favorite Catgirl is game for about any creepy goings on and I’ll let you all in on the juicy bits if only you just “Read On”!!
This one starts out by introducing us to the quiet little neighborhood cul-de-sac you’ve all seen about a million time on British TV. In fact, this low budget horror film was actually was filmed on the old standing set from the British soap opera “Brookside”….. but I’m thinking you’d probably need to be British yourself to recognize it. (I’m more of an “Eastenders” sort of fan myself…) Early morning… a paperboy making his lonely rounds before most anybody is even awake, and having the bad luck to eavesdrop upon a rather nasty domestic argument between an East Asian doctor, Mr. Sharma, and his wife. Discovered while listening at a window, he gets chased into the nearby woods where he avoids Mr. Sharma’s wrath, but runs afoul of an nasty, unknown…. something. Scratch one paperboy…..
Next we get introduced to Jodie (played by Linzey Cocker) and her father Clive (Dean Andrews) as they drive along on a road-trip so she can spend Christmas at her estranged mother Beth’s house. It’s a pleasant enough bit of father-daughter bonding over their respective tastes in music all artfully done to help Jodie avoid the subject of the destination of their trip itself and the thought of spending Christmas with the mother she abhors for having abandoned her and her father when she was a baby. Clive’s a good sort…. unable to hate his ex, mostly sad and baffled by that choice Beth made all those years ago, but determined that Jodie should at least know her mother in some fashion. Jodie? Well she’s got a chip on her shoulder the size of the rock of Gibraltar and there’s no way she’s ever going to forgive or forget the wrong she feels her mother has done to her and her father. But…. present in hand.. she gets dropped off anyway at her Mom’s doorstep and proceeds to let herself in using the key Beth keeps in a flowerpot near the front door. Not exactly a smart idea….
Beth’s not alone you see…. expecting her daughter to arrive later in the day, she’s busy shagging a one-night stand picked up at the local pub the night before. It’s not exactly the sort of way to score points with your estranged daughter to be caught in such a compromising position…. Oops!! No surprise… as Jodie goes ballistic and storms off to escape and seek solace at a neighbor’s home. Despite the scene this creates, Beth follows her, attempting to apologize to Jodie. This gets her nowhere and after getting a frosty reception from her clearly pissed off neighbors, the street is suddenly invaded by a squad of black clad commando types ordering everyone back indoors….. or else. Before anyone can react, Mr. Sharma suddenly appears from his house armed with a bloody cleaver, all covered in gore and screaming in Hindu. Without any hesitation, he is abruptly shot dead by the soldiers. Everybody gets the hint reeeeaally fast. These guys are not kidding and they mean serious business.
Here’s where the film gets going. Seems a certain mysterious shipping container washed ashore nearby during the night…. and the contents were the property of a government black ops experiment gone terribly wrong. Now this nameless thing is loose…. and the scary “boys in black” are here to stop it at all costs…. and make certain nobody survives to tell the tale of exactly what happened. D’ohh! That just can’t be good.
Basically… the remainder of the story really concerns Beth (played by Neve McIntosh)…. and her frantic attempts to make her way safely across the street to Jodie. In her way are a small army of government sanctioned killers and the thing that has even hardened veteran troops like them scared silly. All she’s got is her own wits, her determination, and Kieran (Shaun Dooley), her one-night-stand with all his crazy conspiracy theories and load of personal baggage.
Although at first a fairly dysfunctional and basically unlikeable character, Beth grows on you as you learn that she chose career over family and ultimately left Jodie with her loving father rather than have her grow up with a mother who had no time to be a proper mother for her. She’s a sad character, who having found the success she wanted, has discovered how ultimately empty it has left her life. In her own way, she shows her love for the daughter she gave up in the only way she still can, risking everything to see that Jodie will escape this mess and make it out alive.
In a low budget film, it’s good character interplay that makes up for the lack of cast, the lack of sets, and this one certainly turns all these seemingly negative realities of movie making into pluses here. The entire film has a very “closed in” and claustrophobic feeling…. The filmmakers use this to good effect, and the film gets much of it’s suspense from the sparse look of the street and it’s seemly deserted appearance. The nature of the treat is kept secret as well till much of the story has unrolled. At first you think it might be terrorists…. then maybe zombies….. until the nature of the true menace gets revealed.
Is there a resolution for Beth and Jodie? Well…. “Salvage” isn’t that sort of a “touchy feelly” film so I wouldn’t expect it to end with hearts and flowers. Let’s just say that Beth succeeds in saving Jodie and leave it at that.
Did Neko like this one? Surprisingly yes. It’s a short little film at 81 minutes, but it at no time feels slow or laggy, and although most of the character development is done in small dialog bits here and there between the bloody scary bits, it actually works quite well in evoking the very modern feeling of “disconnection” between people that modern urban life has created. “Salvage” captures the way many people these days end up never being that close to anybody like neighbors or supposed friends, or even thier own family, and even highlights that little distrust of the government everyone sometimes feels these days to boot. The special effects throughout are minimal…. and the “monster” more than a bit disappointing when it finally shows itself, but that’s more a matter of budget than story I’m thinking, and so Neko’s willing to cut the film some slack in this regard.
I can easily give “Salvage” a firm 3 “Meows” out of 5 for doing the whole “paranoid monster hunt” thing with a measure of gusto and fun. It’s not the big gore fest some might expect, but in all, it works fairly well as a character driven thriller. The UK Region 2 DVD is somewhat spartan overall, but does come with an Audio commentary with director Lawrence Gough, actor Shaun Dooley, writer Colin O’Donnell, and associate producer Alan Pattison. Throw in some cast interviews and a small “making of” featurette and it’s well worth a look see for the horror fan on a budget themselves.
There’s a Trailer… and you know I’d never end a review without giving you a tasty lil’ look at it now would I?