British horror thriller “Salvage” marks the directorial debut of helmer Lawrence Gough, and now arrives on DVD via Revolver following a successful run at international genre festivals. The film has a decent pedigree, boasting the talents of Director of Photography Simon Tindall, who recently worked on the likes of “Bright Star”, “The Queen” and “28 Days Later”. Of interest to UK viewers is the film’s soap opera connections, with it having been written by “Hollyoaks” scribe Colin O’Donnell, and having been shot on one of the old sets from the long running “Brookside” series.
The film takes place on Christmas Eve, and is set in a quiet suburban cul-de-sac, where a teenage girl called Jodie (Linzey Cocker) returns to spend the holiday season with her estranged mother Beth (Neve Mcintosh), only to find her in bed with a stranger. Angry and confused, the poor lass runs off and takes shelter with the neighbours. Unfortunately, before Beth can make amends, the area is sealed off by heavily armed military personnel who are searching for the missing cargo of a container ship which has run ashore on a beach nearby. With no information forthcoming from the authorities, and with the bodies starting to pile up, Beth teams up with Kieran (Shaun Dooley (“Eden Lake”), her one night stand, to try and rescue her daughter and escape.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given writer O’Donnell’s soap opera background, “Salvage” starts off slowly, spending a fair amount of time on domestic drama. This actually works quite well, and although the character relationships are entirely conventional, the film benefits from having some basic grounding before everything goes to hell in the expected fashion. Gough handles the sudden shift into horror quite well, with the viewers being kept entirely in the dark along with the characters as to the nature of the container and its contents, and as to whether the gruesome events unfolding are the result of a terrorist attack, or something more sinister.
Although the film does initially have a vaguely similar feel to recent paranoia thriller “At Your Door”, it moves quickly from building unease into inexplicable chaos and murder as violence erupts. The film rattles along at a good pace, and the frequent scare scenes help to keep the viewer entertained and engaged, and perhaps more importantly, from noticing the many plot holes or the essential daftness of the premise. Once all of the cards are on the table, the film is a very simplistic, high concept affair, and whilst this in itself is not a bad thing, its revelations do come off as rather pedestrian, and as somewhat of a disappointment. As a result, once the credits roll, there is a sense of having been bundled along on a short, at times sharp ride, though one without much substance or originality, and which is let down by an entirely expected downbeat ending.
This may be a little harsh, as the film has a lot in its favour, with a pleasingly naturalistic script, good performances from the cast, and with Gough showing himself a competent director. There are a few genuine frights along the way, and although there is not much in the way of actual gore, the film does have a visceral, at times intense feel. Wisely, at just over an hour and fifteen minutes, it never outstays its welcome, and though nothing particularly new, it performs efficiently enough and should be enjoyed by undemanding genre fans.
Lawrence Gough (director) / Lawrence Gough, Colin O’Donnell, Alan Pattison (screenplay)
CAST: Shahid Ahmed … Mr Sharma
Dean Andrews … Clive
Sufian Ashraf … Mrs. Sharma
Ben Batt … Trooper Jones
Linzey Cocker … Jodie
Shaun Dooley … Kieran
Trevor Hancock … The Savage