Dirs/scr: Joshua and Jeffrey Crook. US. 2006. 79mins.
The brothers Crook, Joshua and Jeffrey,previously made an urban thriller, SuckerPunch, and the title is dismayingly consistent with their new feature Salvage. In producing a structuralhorror movie, freely mixing the irrational and the incoherent, the brothers offer conflicted scenarios in relating the story ofan attractive young college student pursued by a serial killer.
The effect is the same as beingsmashed in the gut. Continuously suspending narrative to question whether thefilm is real or invented, a dream or recovered nightmare, the brothers misapplytheir talents to very meretricious ends, deploying all manner of studiedtechnique and brutal action to indefensible effect. The result is manipulativeand filled with disturbing imagery of a young woman being beaten, stabbed andviolated.
The smeared digital videolook enforces the sense of claustrophobia and manic creepiness, though the film-makersnever use the conventions of horror to get underneath the form or animate thestyle to say anything new or interesting.
Salvage premieredat the Midnight section at Sundance and given the ravenous market for horrormovies and all their permutations, a young, hip crowd is certain to be foundfor this cinema of cruelty. It should play in college towns as an after-hoursattraction, and find a strong play in cable and DVD. But it is possibly tooinsular and unseemly to move beyond the lower fringes of the independent horrorcycle.
Having completed her shiftat a local convenience store, 19-year-old Claire (Lewis) arrives at the typicallocation to meet her boyfriend, Jimmy (Darbe), whodrives her to a morning class. Claire's is startled to find a strange,threatening man (Ferry) driving Jimmy's truck. The man convinces her he is anassociate of Jimmy's from the salvage yard, and she reluctantly agrees to bedriven home.
Eventually Claire isoverwhelmed by the man and attempts to barricade herself inside the house. Duringa protracted, thoroughly ugly moment, he gnashes away at her body and face,cutting, mutilating and then seemingly killing her.
Following a jump cut theaction returns to the convenience store, and Claire talking with her manager ina scene eerily similar to the opening moments. Returning to the same rendezvouspoint, Claire now confronts Jimmy, exploding the narrative inside out. Settinginto her everyday actions - attending classes, working the convenience store,hanging out with Jimmy or going home, where she lives with her unsettled,bizarre mother (Olander) - Claire is exceedinglyundone by the recurring feeling of being watched, pursued, and looked after.
Horror movies arefundamental acts of coercion and breakdown, annihilating a sense of thefamiliar and comfortable. The Crook brothers are probably convinced that with Salvage they are subverting form andmood, but the threatening, bleak repetitiveness of the storytelling offersneither comfort nor release.
Lewis brings a soulfulconviction and concentration to the part, though an undernourished plot and thefilm-makers' lack of imagination betray her. By the time of its surpriseconclusion, the question is not whether or not the violence is real or imaginedbut whether a movie like Salvagereally needs to exist in the first part. These talented, ambitious film-makersnever make that case.
Crook Brothers Productions
Off Hollywood Pictures
c/o Washington Square Films
Ricardo Sean Thompson
John Barrett Ashmore
Lauren Currie Lewis