Sundance has made it clear that this year they will be returning to their roots. What does that mean exactly? It means that they are trying to keep Hollywood out of Sundance, which is becoming as difficult as keeping religion separate from state in our government. I shook my head and laughed when I first heard this announcement, especially since Lionsgate will be screening ‘The Descent’ at the fest- but after viewing the indie pic ‘Salvage’, I knew that they were indeed “trying”.
Last year’s Sundance Film Festival was dry when it came to our beloved horror genre as ‘Wolf Creek’ was the only horror film shown and then acquired. This year is quite different as we are treated to four horror films that will make their debut at the event- but does that mean they’re all quality? The first feature I had the opportunity to check out was Josh and Jeff Crook’s ‘Salvage,’ and even though the movie is far from perfect, it was still a perfectly good time.
In ‘Salvage’ Lauren Currie Lewis stars as a young woman named Claire who keeps having nightmares about a local serial killer (Chris Ferry) who was murdered. In the nightmares the killer is stalking her, tormenting her and doing terrible things to her. Everyone in town thinks she’s crazy (or on drugs), but what’s really going on?
Considering how low budget ‘Salvage’ is, it’s really difficult for me to point out the negative aspects of the film, but it really did suffer quite a bit from budget restraints- and yet the Crooks still found a way to conquer most of their problems artistically.
The Crook’s were thinking big when writing and directing ‘Salvage’, as some stuff comes off as hokey and cheesy, other areas flash heavy signs of brilliance. Josh Crook took over editing duties, his efforts were one of the major reasons the film was successful as a horror film. For some transitions he uses the classic flashes of blood and gore while scorching loud sounds into your eardrums to make you flinch.
To keep the film as edgy as it kicks off, the film is loaded with unsettling imagery such as close ups of peoples spines as well as other little things that keep us on our toes throughout the pic. And even though the gore is kept to a minimum, the Crook’s find a way to make us flinch while keeping the budget within their grasp. One of the highlights of the film is when a character is having her face cut off (ala Texas Chainsaw Massacre). They never really show the face being removed, but we get a great tearing sound as we get a shot of the killer falling back with a chunk of flesh clenched tightly in his hand.
In addition to some great editing and camera tricks, the directing style and cinematography was stunning at times. The dream sequences were gorgeous, and the added heartbeat over them was a nice touch. The effect that was dropped over the dream sequences were original and intriguing. It looked like it was shot for the use of shutter glasses (for the 3-D effect), and yet somehow it was clear. I’m pretty interested in talking with the directors to see how this effect was achieved.
The screenplay was pretty well written as these comedy writers brought some great relieving moments to ‘Salvage’. One of the best ongoing jokes was Claire’s boyfriend who is constantly pushing for a threesome with her friend.
As entertaining as ‘Salvage’ was, there were still plenty of problems with the film, which could easily ruin the experience for some. One of the major areas that needed improvement was that the film carried a stack of cheesy dramatics. Fore example, in one scene a girl reaches out with bloody fingers and grasps the ground only to be dragged away. More examples were the exasperated cries from lead character- all I kept thinking was in ‘Team America’ when one of the characters is shot he says “So cold… (then he dies).”
Like I said earlier the screenplay was well written, but the film suffered from inexperienced delivery. The most hilarious was when Claire’s mother says “and be careful, Ok, because I worry about you in that place all alone.” And as much as there are inexperienced segments, there are some keepers like when the killer says “The only thing that’s real, is what you feel… when I cut your head off.” Hell yeah!
Keeping in mind this is Sundance’s return to it’s roots, ‘Salvage’ is the perfect horror film for the fest. Watching the pic reminded me of the ‘good old days’ when indie horror films had more heart, more care and a lot of love from genre fans. Only the problem still presents itself- there’s that special “something” missing from this film that separates it from greats like ‘Saw’ or ‘Wolf Creek’, and I could never, in a million years, see this hitting theaters.