July 23, 2014

SUMMER OF BLOOD, Day 53: Salvage (2009)

Directed by Lawrence Gough. Starring Neve McIntosh ("Beth"), Shaun Dooley ("Kieran"), and Linzey Cocker ("Jodie"). Not Rated.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Revolver)
Running time: 01:15:20
Country: UK

A few months back I saw actress Linzey Cocker in the Van Damme movie ENEMIES CLOSER (which sucked) and thought "Hey, she's cute! What else is she in?" And here I am reviewing SALVAGE, in which Cocker plays a teenage girl named Jodie, who's dropped off by her dad to visit her mother that she can't stand. Without getting into details, the meeting between Jodie and her mom gets off to a bad start and they end up going their separate ways. Next thing you know, the neighborhood is being raided by Special Ops-looking dudes with machine guns who don't hesitate to mow down unruly civilians.

When SALVAGE starts, it's seemingly setting up Jodie as the lead character, but the film actually follows her mother, Beth, as she becomes a prisoner in her own home. Whatever the motives are for these gun-toting military types, it's pretty obvious that their trip to this particular neighborhood isn't a random one. They have a specific mission but none of the civilians know what's going on. What is random is the fact that Beth is now trapped in her house with a booty-call who's name she doesn't even remember. But I guess the plus side of things moving at such a frantic pace in the lives of these characters is that there's no time for things to get awkward.

SALVAGE is minimalist in terms of plot and characters. It's the type of movie that could essentially be turned into a stage play. For the most part, the film consists of two characters contained to a single setting. It's stripped down and raw but effective. So, how can the filmmakers take something so simple and avoid making a boring product? There are a lot of solutions to that problem, but, in this particular case, they simply incorporate the unknown. Without a specific threat established, it creates an inherent anticipation for something big, and it all depends on whether or not the film can pay it off and deliver something that makes it exciting and worthwhile. For most of the film, the "threat" could be anything - a zombie apocalypse, a virus outbreak, World War 3, alien invasion, Mothra, etc. And, in featuring the backdrop of something unknown but clearly dangerous, the film doesn't have to follow any guidelines or conventions. It's a simple but smart set-up for a horror movie, thriller, etc. That said, SALVAGE makes you think it's going in a certain direction for most of the running time, and then, all of a sudden, BAM! - sharp left turn. Or right turn; this has nothing to do with politics.

So, is SALVAGE just two people locked in a house? Not quite. There are other characters who come in and out of the picture for reasons that are explained, so there's enough going on at just the right times to keep things interesting and well-paced. But it is very much a dialogue and character-driven kind of film.

Some who have seen this could argue that nothing cool happens until the last 20 minutes or so, but my response to that is: at least something cool happens. Had this movie built up all this anticipation only for nothing unexpected or interesting to happen, then SALVAGE would've been a failure for sure. Regardless of the pay-off, though, the dialogue and character development in the film are relatively strong. I don't have much more to add. Overall, SALVAGE didn't knock my socks off, but it was a nice little surprise. The highlights for me, aside from what I already mentioned, are Neve McIntosh's performance and some of the cool makeup effects that we get to see towards the end.

Score: 6.5

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