SALVAGE is the latest in a long line of horror tropes that explores relationships, fears and survival instincts of everyday people when faced with the threat of the unknown.
Working from an intelligent script by Colin O’Donnell, Lawrence Gough’s directorial debut belies any inexperience with a thrilling tale that neatly straddles the horror-cum-thriller genre and, like Steven Sheil’s MUM AND DAD (2008), delivers its terrors and tensions within a familial urban setting of working class Britain at Christmas.
With her parents having divorced, estranged daughter, Jodie (Linzey Cocker), is dropped off by her doting father Clive (Dean Andrews) at her mother’s home on Christmas Eve. With no-one answering the door, Jodie lets herself in with a spare key and is shocked when she stumbles in on mother, Beth (Neve Mcintosh), having sex with latest one-night stand, Kieran (Shaun Dooley).
Ignoring Beth’s pleas and apologies, Jodie runs to her friend’s house opposite, where she is taken in and comforted, much to the dismay of Beth who realises she’s made yet another mistake in her attempts to build bridges with her daughter following the divorce and decision to put a career as a doctor before her family. But before Beth can make amends, the quiet cul-de-sac becomes the scene of a hostile military operation that sees one neighbour brandishing a bloody weapon shot dead and all residents herded back into their homes at gunpoint.
Forced to remain with Kieran, Beth’s paranoia concerning her estrangement from her daughter and determination to prove her love are increased when it becomes apparent that something deadly is lurking in the neighbourhood, apparently linked to a washed up shipping container, discovered on a nearby beach. As the couple try to determine the reasons behind the army’s heavy-handed procedures, the area and all its inhabitants become potential threats to Beth whose guilt and protective motherly instincts take centre stage as she desperately tries to reach her daughter across the road.
O’Donnell’s script explores much of the same thematical anxieties displayed in his work for the soap BROOKSIDE, which coincidentally utilises the same cul-de-sac sets for much of its action. Like ALIEN’s Ripley, Beth’s maternal instincts prove stronger and, as a result, more effective than her male counterparts when facing the unknown. Equally fascinating is the film’s symbolic updating of pre-cinematic folklore involving the potential threat to loved ones/family by monsters/persons unknown (Little Red Riding Hood; Hansel & Gretel; Princess and the Goblin, etc) with modern fears involving political extremism, biochemical weapons, viral outbreaks, and genetic experiment.
Utilising some excellent hand-held photography by Simon Tindall whose action-lens previously graced 28 DAYS LATER, director Gough confidently handles the menace long after we’ve discovered the true horror of the scenario, with several edge-of-the-seat sequences in which Beth attempts to elude the encroaching horror. Neve Mcintosh is outstanding in her portrayal of Beth and it’s no surprise her performance earned her the award for Best Actress at “Fantastic Fest 09”. Shaun Dooley is also convincing as the lover with a guilt trip of his own.
Gorehounds will be pleased to see some nicely handled bloodletting, though the monster itself (when it finally appears) has little screen time, possibly due to budget restrictions. Overall, SALVAGE is another fine low-budget British horror echoing shades of the claustrophic horrors of Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and the mutant monstrosities of Bob Keen’s PROTEUS. Well worth a viewing.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Lawrence Gough
English Language / UK / 2009 / 87 minutes / Colour / Rated 18
Region 2 / PAL
A Revolver Entertainment DVD release
Region 2 (UK)
release date 18th March, 2010