Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport and get your shots, because this week we’re heading to…
Any horror film that has the balls to kill a kid gets a few extra points from me automatically. It doesn’t need to be a gory death (although that’s always a nice surprise), but the simple act of letting the child die acknowledges that kids have an expiration date and no one will be safe in this movie. In that regard, this week’s Foreign Object starts things off rather strong as a nosy, young paperboy is torn a new one in the woods by an unseen attacker. Does this mean the movie is going to be great? Sadly, no, but at the very least we know a little British shite bites it hardcore. So that’s something…
Contrary to what some of you (okay me) may have thought, small town England isn’t all bangers and mash, Spitting Image puppets, and soccer hooligans. There are also real people having relationship troubles, teenage girls dealing with their parents’ divorce, and strange creatures washing ashore in shipping containers. In many ways it’s just like New Jersey. Salvage sees all of these coming together as a small English town awakens to find a mysterious container arrived on its shores. It’s appearance coincides with a visit from Jodie, a teenager being deposited in town by her dad to spend the Christmas holiday with her mum. Jodie is none too pleased about the situation, and it’s made all the worse when she walks in to find her mother shagging a man she’s only just met.
The girl runs off and Beth (Neve McIntosh) runs after her determined to make things right. She’s barely outside when a military-looking man knocks her to the ground and demands she return to her house. She complies, but not before her Middle eastern neighbor exits his own home covered in blood and wielding a cleaver… and is shot dead in front of her. Beth now finds herself a prisoner in her own home with a one-night stand named Kiernan (Shaun Dooley) and no way to reach her daughter. Armed men roam around outside searching for… something, while Beth and Kiernan are trapped inside with each other. And they may not be alone.
Salvage was produced on an extremely low budget, and the effect has both positive and negative implications for the movie. On the plus side the film manages to increase the tension and scares thanks to a high degree of claustrophobia. Small rooms, stairwells, and crawlspaces become terrifying choke points where a deadly surprise could be coiled and ready to spring just around the corner. We’re also given time to get to know our lead characters more than a bigger film may have allowed. Beth and Kiernan are both severely flawed. They’ve gone out of their way to endanger and/or destroy their separate family lives through infidelity and other inappropriate behaviors, and neither begin the film as particularly likable people. But as we see them thrust into this predicament and forced to find strength within we watch them grow into characters we’re rooting for… until we remember this is a flick that killed a kid in the opening minutes.
The unfortunate part of limited funding though is evident in what you can’t bring to the film. It’s never believable even for a moment that an entire town (or even the neighborhood) has been taken over by the military. We never see more than four soldiers onscreen at any given time, and at best it looks like everyone just keeps running back and forth between two houses. A limited budget and a necessary focus on limited characters means insufficient exposure to the others. Beth and Kiernan are properly introduced and followed, but every other character manages to be as deep as a sheet of paper. As a result we just don’t care about anyone except our flawed fornicators. Budget also comes into play when creating an effective-looking creature, but the less said about that the better.
Salvage neither attempts nor achieves anything new for the horror genre, but it does a competent job within an obviously limited scope. The two leads give impressive and emotional performances and keep your attention focused whenever they’re onscreen. They’re flawed certainly, but that depth makes you hope they end up as more than just fodder for bullets or teeth. The premise begins well but seems to lose focus as more information becomes available, and the eventual conclusion is a lazy attempt to achieve dramatic closure of the type the story just doesn’t need. Still, Salvage has enough scares and quality acting to make it worth a watch.
Salvage was released last week on (region2) DVD from Revolver Entertainment. In addition to the film, the DVD features a commentary with director Lawrence Gough and some other members of the cast and crew, a short making-of feature, and forty-five minutes of entertaining and insightful interviews. Buy it from AmazonUK.
The Upside: Two strong lead characters; claustrophobic at times; some good tension and scares; 80 minute running time is perfect for the material
The Downside: Unconvincing scale; ending feels unnecessarily forced; characters aside from Beth and Kiernan are one note; some inexplicable behavior that fails to fit the explanation given
Related Topics: Foreign Objects