JULY 31, 2010
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – a twist ending can only truly work if everything that came before it was interesting on its own. The Sixth Sense is a perfect example – you could easily end the film before the final scene with Bruce, and you’d still have a perfectly decent thriller about a kid who could see ghosts. Salvage, on the other hand, has a pretty good twist, but the 75 minutes that came before it were largely repetitive and lackluster, and eventually the only reason I kept watching (besides HMAD-related OCD) was to see if my guess on the twist was right.
And it wasn’t! But I wasn’t way off either. As the film concerns a girl who keeps getting killed, it wasn’t hard to guess that there was some minor Carnival of Souls stuff going on, but there was more to it, something a little more interesting and unique. However, the film fails to make the situation or characters more engaging. Our heroine gets killed for the first time in the first ten minutes, and from the time she wakes up until the end, she’s mostly in “spooked out horror movie character” mode, cautiously approaching doors and (sigh) going to the library to look at microfiches. The script could have developed her character more, making her easier to sympathize with and eventually root for, or even to simply address certain odd aspects of her character. For example, why does she work the graveyard shift at a gas station, when she’s obviously still very young (I couldn’t figure out if her school was supposed to be a high school or a college)? Or, why doesn’t she dump her boyfriend, who is seemingly obsessed with sleeping with her best friend?
Actually, the boyfriend is probably my favorite part of the movie, because he seems to have wandered in from a different film entirely. While everyone else is sullen or creepy, he just talks about screwing her best friend and other largely unimportant matters. My favorite bit is during the obligatory “Hey this is where that crazy guy lives, let’s look around his house” scene, because while she’s off following all of the horror movie rules to a T, he simply declares “This is the type of place that makes me want to take a crap!” and then runs around looking for a toilet. I also like that he makes his girlfriend push his car when it stalls, because she doesn’t have a license.
There are also a couple of decent scare moments, such as when the killer cuts off our heroine’s face – not something you see too often. And for once, they actually pull off successful “looking around in the dark” scene. I hate in movies when it’s supposed to be so dark that the actors can’t see their hands in front of their faces, yet we can see everything around them. Here, the directors (Jeff and Josh Crook) have it both ways – a shot on her is typically lit, but on the reverse angle, it’s we see the same darkness she does.
They aren’t as successful with other filmmaking aspects, however. Establishing shots or anything else to denote that a period of time has lapsed are rare; early on the boyfriend drops her off, and then it seems like he picks her up again moments later, but its supposed to be the next day. Most of the supporting characters are played by terrible non-actors, and the film has far too many songs by a D-grade Evanescence-y band that felt terribly out of place. And a key moment is ruined (for me) because the blood that was supposedly just shed is already dry on both characters’ faces. As they point out several times on the commentary, this film was shot with DV tape – there’s no excuse for not re-shooting or going back to film necessary scene transitions and such.
The commentary is just as lackluster as the film, as they fall silent often and merely point out which non-actor is playing a role or where things were shot. Refreshingly, they do admit that the film could have used a stronger story to keep audiences more engaged beyond simply understanding the twist, so that’s good, but they also chalk up the lack of these elements to their budget, which doesn’t quite make sense to me – all of the actors are local, the tapes, by their own admission, cost three dollars and fifty cents – why not just add these things after their first assembly, when they probably realized that the film had some pacing issues? Luckily, since they are quiet and the film itself has long stretches without any significant dialogue, you can probably just watch it for the first time with their track and cut your Salvage time in half.
I really wish I liked the movie more. Ironically, the same guys wrote Rise Of The Dead, which was also somewhat back-loaded, in that the closing moments were by far the best part of the movie, but that one was at least enjoyable in the meantime, with a number of gonzo kill scenes, and a story that wasn’t suppressed from its audience (the “holy shit!” moment wasn’t so much a twist but in how the problem was resolved). But that movie showed that they were an interesting team, and I was excited to see another of their projects. But alas, it didn’t quite gel together for me – the twist was interesting, but getting there was a chore. A chore with a horrible soundtrack.
What say you?