| May 24, 2010

Lack of urgency is one of the most common symptoms plaguing the genre of horror films. Many films opt for excessive gore as their centerpiece, but “Salvage” does not barter one for the other, instead creating an ever-present, yet ambiguous threat, giving us sensations of danger and the visible manifestations it.
“Salvage,” the directorial debut from Lawrence Gough, takes us into a quaint suburban neighborhood in England on Christmas Eve. Beth (Neve McIntosh) has a reluctant guest– Jodie, her teenage daughter, who is ready to nominate Beth for the Worst Mother of the Year Award and runs away to a neighbor’s house across the street. Beth hardly has time to convince Jodi to come back before a SWAT team sends everyone into their homes, ordering them to lock and barricade the doors and windows. Almost everyone jumps to the conclusion that threat is terrorist-related, but they soon come to understand that the threat is more foreign and more dangerous than they could have imagined.
Another frequent complain about horror films is that they are predictable. While “Salvage” cannot completely escape that weakness, there are elements that contribute to an unabashed, unembellished terror. A significant contribution comes from Neve McIntosh, winner of Best Horror Actress at Fantastic Fest 2009 for her performance. McIntosh seamlessly goes from being an insecure, unstable single mother to a perceptive, motivated and brave heroine, all the while wearing the notion that fear and courage are the same thing on her face.
Another strength of the film comes from it’s balance of setting, psychology and blood that creates an atmosphere of pressure and an honest sense of fear. The setting of a small suburban neighborhood places the threat in an unexpected place and holding the residents in their own homes makes the option of escape feel nearly impossible. The film also explores the frames of mind people suffer from due to fear. And, the enormous, open flesh wounds, the gushing blood that makes it way onto everything, that turns into crusty flakes on the remaining survivors, is enough to make one cringe from disgust and dread.
What may be the most terrifying aspect of “Salvage” is that for a long time the threat does not have a face– no one knows who or what they are up against. The threat could be anywhere, it could be anyone. We see it in the real world– people’s need to detect the danger, to identify it and take care of it. And, we see what happens when it isn’t that simple. Fear gets the best of us. “Salvage” builds on the fear of the unknown to compose a horror film with urgency.

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