Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… the Crook Brothers’ Salvage.
This is a difficult review for me to write. Not because I don’t have a lot to say about this movie because believe me I do. No, instead I find this review hard because this film just gives me the overwhelming desire to write the phrase “FUCK THIS MOVIE” a hundred and thirty-seven times and call it a day. Salvage is one of the most painful and tedious films that I have ever had to sit through, and I say this as a man who watched Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch in the theater on opening night.
Salvage is equal parts A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jacob’s Ladder, and Groundhog Day, minus anything that made those films clever and interesting. Claire Parker is having odd dreams. She’s seeing a man from the salvage yard and getting horrifically murdered by him, only to wake up without a scratch. At first she’s a bit shaken, but once things from her dream begin to show up in her everyday life she gets really terrified. From there on out, her journey is a totally incoherent mess of a movie with very little actually happening from scene to scene.
I almost feel bad for picking on this film. It’s immediately apparent that this is unbelievably low budget and if IMDb is anything to go by then they made it for around 25,000. That’s absolutely minuscule, and I can forgive a lot when it comes to movies as indie as this. I actually went into it wanting to go easy on some of the technicals. The film quality is garbage, the lighting is nonexistent, the sound mix is awful, and the color correction is unfinished at best, but you should expect that with super low budget movies. I can forgive all of that, especially when you can tell the filmmaker is really giving it their all and trying to make some other areas of production really shine.
Salvage even starts out pretty decent. The opening scene involves Claire getting attacked and murdered only to wake up fine, and there is at least one genuinely tense moment during all of that. A lot of it falls flat, but when she’s in the truck with this total creep who may or may not wish harm upon her it’s a really uncomfortable moment. On top of that some of the cinematography is actually pretty decent. There are a handful of camera angles that are fairly inventive and show that some time and effort were put in. There was actual potential here. Unfortunately, almost immediately after this opening the whole movie falls apart.
Like I said, I can forgive a lot, but this thing is filled with blatant mistakes, bad writing, bad acting, and some of the worst editing I have ever seen. When Claire is attacked at the top of the stairs, her face is covered in blood. Once she’s dragged down into the basement her face is magically spotless. Every time she looks outside while at her gas station job it seems the time of day changes. My favorite bit, though, is when they actually do change the time of day without giving any indication that they’re doing so. Claire is getting a ride home from her boyfriend. She goes inside, makes a pot of coffee, hears a knock at the door, stumbles into her mom, and then opens the door to find…her boyfriend. Apparently now it’s morning and he’s just arrived to drive her to school. There’s no shot of her going to sleep. There’s no sign of the sun going down. Hell, they don’t even fade to black. It’s just a straight cut from her walking into the house and taking off her jacket to her stepping into the kitchen. I even had to rewind it to double check because of how confusing and terrible it is. This just shows a complete lack of understanding of how to pace a scene and properly deliver information to the audience. Seriously, all they needed to do was fade to black. It’s such an easy fix.
On top of that, the writing for this movie is abysmal. I get it. I get that they were trying to do something surreal and disorienting, but while it’s achieved masterfully in other films such as Jacob’s Ladder, here it just turns the plot into a confusing mess. Even at a film’s most surreal it should be internally consistent. There should be rules set, and even if the audience isn’t privy to that knowledge, the filmmaker should know. I get the sense that these directors just made it up as they went along. Is this girl getting killed over and over again or are these just nightmares? Is the killer just a dude with a knife or is he some kind of supernatural entity? It seems to change completely depending on the scene, and unfortunately when they start treating him like a regular dude again it absolutely ruins any mystique he ever had. I think there’s also a moment where they imply that the last twenty minutes were all a dream, but because of how terribly this story is told and how confusingly it’s edited I may be quite mistaken.
The pacing is terrible, as well. The first third of the movie consists of nothing happening and our main character doing nothing. She just goes about her day and every once in a while there’s a fake-out scare. Some of them could have been kind of good. The killer showing up out of focus in the background is kind of creepy, but in the context of this movie they just slow everything down. On the other hand some of them are terrible. The killer appearing in the store only to duck behind a shelf when he’s spotted is one of the goofiest things I’ve ever seen. Either way they don’t really add anything to the story and most of them go on way too long. There’s a lengthy scene right at the beginning that has our heroine reaching for her earring through a chained door. Aside from being total filler, this also just doesn’t make any sense. If she wanted her earring she’d open the door. If she was too afraid to open it, she wouldn’t be reaching outside for her earring. There is no scenario where this behavior is logical or realistic.
Speaking of which, the characters are bad. Claire (Lauren Currie Lewis) is tolerable, and does at least put forth an effort, but mostly everyone else is atrocious. There’s a particular librarian that comes off especially bad, but Claire’s mom, all of the cops, and all of her friends stick out as pretty awful too. It doesn’t help that the dialogue is both cliche and completely robotic. Most of these characters are antagonistic towards Claire to a completely unbelievable degree, since it’s for absolutely no reason than to add some pointless drama. I also have to mention the part where Claire’s best friend consoles her, by telling her, “I am your best friend and here to console you!”
When we get to the end and the plot starts to unravel, the whole mess just gets even more confusing. The twist is a cool concept on paper, but doesn’t work for even a second in this movie. The storytelling here is totally incompetent and ruins whatever good idea they once had. The film is trying to do surreal, and doing it really poorly. What makes other films of this nature work is having something to latch onto. A Nightmare on Elm Street and Jacob’s Ladder are effective because their worlds are grounded and believable at the beginning. Having a recognizable and believable starting point makes the surreal qualities stand out more when they finally do happen. But if the world never makes sense, it just mucks everything up. You can’t tell what’s unrealistic intentionally and what’s unrealistic because of bad writing. It all just blends together.
Salvage is awful. Aside from the technical problems due to a very low budget, there’s also a serious lack of understanding of how storytelling actually works. The editing issues and blatant mistakes are unforgivable and I’m honestly shocked that they released the film with these issues. Some scenes just don’t make any godd*mn sense from a basic pacing and storytelling level because the editing is so awful. The film’s internal logic is all over the place and what’s worse is that the movie feels like it’s trying to be clever and just falling on its face. F**k this movie.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.