Starring: Neve McIntosh, Shaun Dooley, Dean Andrews, Linzey Cocker
It’s Christmas Eve, and Jodie (Cocker) is being dropped off at her estranged mother’s house by her dad. Arriving earlier than expected in the cul-de-sac she grew up in, she finds her mum, Beth (McIntosh) having sex with a one-night-stand called Kieran, and promptly storms off to her friend’s house across the road. As Beth tries to reason with her, black-clad soldiers suddenly swarm through the street sealing it off, forcing everyone back in their homes. And executing one of her neighbours. Whatever is happening seems to be linked to a cargo container found on the local beach. Kieran believes that it’s a terrorist attack but Beth is only thinking about her daughter, trapped across the street.
The recent hit Paranormal Activity succeeded for the most part by presenting a very believable scenario – not the demonic element, but the waking up in the middle of the night to unfamiliar sounds coming from your own home. Most of us could identify with that feeling so the supernatural element didn’t feel quite so removed from reality.
The whole point of living in a cul-de-sac rather than a street is that you don’t get people “just passing by”. It allows you to feel safer, that you know all your neighbours and unfamiliar faces stand out. It’s quiet and peaceful – unless you’re a single mum trying to speak to your daughter who’s just seen you having sex with a stranger. Then everyone comes out to watch the spectacle.
Imagine then, that out of the blue your little block of houses was surrounded by special ops soldiers who pin you to the ground and shoot your neighbour, who for some reason is wielding a meat cleaver and is covered in blood. They order you back inside and won’t tell you what’s happening. You managed to glean a little info from the tv before the close’s power is cut off. You’re stuck inside, with a man you’d just met yesterday, and your daughter is trapped across the street. And there are strange noises coming from upstairs...
Salvage manages to mine the heightened fear and paranoia from that scenario very well. By keeping us in the dark as much as the protagonists, we feel just as helpless as they do. Director Lawrence Gough gets a lot of mileage out of a few well-timed sound-fx which are quite unsettling. Then there are the moments of silence as our protagonists go to investigate. Gough uses the silence while focusing on ominous objects – like a bloodied sledgehammer sitting on the top of the stairs. You don’t need anyone commenting on how strange that is, or muttering “how did that get there?”.
story develops at a nice pace, although I wasn’t too taken by the start which was heavy on the kitchen-sink-drama. But to the film’s credit, it doesn’t waste much time introducing the Threat once it’s established that Beth is in one house and Jodie is in another. There are some nice revelations between Beth and Kieran and a little bit of plot exposition is given along the way when they rescue a wounded soldier.
To say much more would be to the detriment of enjoying a quite original, British horror movie. The cast are all faces recognisable to British tv audiences and bring the level of acting you’d expect. There’s a fair amount of gore but Salvage really delivers on unsettling, horrific scenes set in a place exactly like the one you’re watching the film in.