Salvage kicks off with a scene that's all-too-familiar to horror fans. A child darts off into a forest, eventually makes his way off the screen, at which point a tree is splattered with blood, signifying that he met his end, probably in a gruesome fashion. I wish this scene wasn't in the film. At least, not this early on.
What follows is a car ride with a father and a daughter who share an obviously close relationship. The father is taking his daughter to her mother's house for the holidays, a visit the daughter isn't looking forward to. Eventually the daughter shows up, finds the mother engaged in adult activities, storms off to a neighbor's house, and before you know it, we've got a family drama on our hands. Salvage isn't just a horror film with dramatic elements, it's a successful blend of the two genres. There does come a point where you might forget that you sat down to watch a horror film, which is outstanding, because the unexpected is scary.
Most horror films work by eliciting fear in the viewer. Salvage elicits panic. There are the more subdued moments, where everything is calm and quiet and creepy, but there's always an underlying panic. People are trapped in a house with multiple entrances while god-knows-what is lurking outside. They don't know what it is. We don't know what it is. They have ideas, but we don't know if we believe those ideas. It's an age-old concept, the idea that you're imagination will whip up something far scarier than anything you could see on the screen, but it's used effectively. Little hints are dropped along the way, the most terrifying of which is that the military is having trouble containing whatever it is. What's a middle-aged woman looking for her daughter and a cheating husband going to do? Salvage has a tiny cast of characters, some more likable than others, but as they rise to the occasion we began to appreciate just how genuine they are.
Not only is Salvage low-budget, it's one of those films were it could only be low-budget. I think more money might've ruined the picture by stifling creativity. What they don't do in the film is just as effective as what they do. Salvage manages to maintain a heightened sense of tension all the way to the end, but I'm not crazy about the ending. It's a concept that's been used before and its effect has just diminished over the years. Not to mention it's cynical as hell, but I do think that the heroism of the main characters balances it out. Salvage is a nice, quiet little horror made by people who know what they're doing.
Guest author Dylan Duarte wishes he lived in a sleepy little cul-de-sac. When he’s not immersed in cinema, he’s writing about Halloween costumes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.