Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Alien was a haunted house in space. Romero's "...of the Dead" always seek to remind us there's inhumanity in all of us. Brookside was a soap opera filmed on an actual cul-de-sac due to the exigencies of production and a canny bit of property speculation.

Stick them together and you've got Salvage.

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At its heart follows a desperate mother/daughter in peril structure that recalls Aliens, and while Linzey Cocker (as Jodie) is less co-operative than Newt, Neve McIntosh is, on occasion, as compelling as Sigourney Weaver. The perils are many and varied, starting with a modern domestic dispute - dropped off by her father for Christmas with her mum, Jodie happens upon her mother and gormless one-night-stand Kieran.

Shaun Dooley is convincingly hapless, and as with almost all the cast, is a television veteran. Most of those involved have been through acting mills of Casualty and The Bill, others caught up in television giants Eastenders or Coronation Street. Those soap pedigrees serve them well here, in what amounts to a 'man is the real monster' picture.

That's not to give away too much of the plot. There are enough twists here to satisfy. The violence starts with a newspaper delivery boy and before the television gets cut off there's a mysterious shipping container on a nearby beach. The army get involved, but even before then we're firmly into Dog Soldiers territory, gore and splatter and a wealth of cynicism. Salvage is aware of the consequences of fear, and the hypotheses put forward reflect a variety of paranoias - it recalls Right At Your Door as well as Night Of The Living Dead. The 'lived-in' nature of the sets and everyman cast contribute to the sense of the familiar.

Sadly, that familiarity extends to elements of the plot. The ending, while strong, is cribbed, and elements involving military-industrial machinations are pretty standard, too. There's a brief glimpse of the monster in the trailer, and like the Alien franchise it's stronger off the screen. When it is shown it causes problems. There are a handful of works that have questioned why it is always the poor bloody infantry that they seek to make things anew, but this isn't one of them.

As a suburban horror this is entertaining, thrilling in places and genuinely scary in others. Writer/Director Lawrence Gough and co-writer Alan Pattison have worked together before, on horror titles The Replacement and The Chemist, in addition to crime thriller Beating The Dog. Colin O'Donnell (who has worked on Brookside stablemate Hollyoaks) assists here as well. With three credited writers it's surprising that this makes as much sense as it does.

What weak points it has are holdovers from the genre. If the forthcoming Carriers is an attempt to reimagine the 'rules' of the zombie movie, most of Salvage's invention is, in fact, regionalisation - patios and novelty ringtones and footsteps in the attic of a semi-detached.

Salvage does a lot with limited means, and in places would do better with more restraint. That said, this is an entertaining film, deftly leavened with humour, with enough frights to satisfy audiences and enough wit to avoid becoming another pedestrian torture instalment. This is a confident and brave horror outing, its only real disappointment a slight lack in ambition.

Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2009
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A divorced mum faces trouble when a military experiment goes wrong.
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Read more Salvage reviews:

Keith Hennessey Brown ***
Paul Griffiths **

Director: Lawrence Gough

Starring: Neve McIntosh, Shaun Dooley, Linzey Cocker, Trevor Hancock, Dean Andrews, Paul Opacic, Kevin Harvey

Year: 2008

Runtime: 81 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2009

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