Monday, October 11, 2010


A young woman has a vivid dream that she is assaulted and murdered in her home by a serial killer. But was it just a dream? She can't shake the dream, and soon starts having weird visions of her attacker. And then things get weirder.

Not sure how this one ended up on my Netflix queue, but when it started up, I suddenly got a bad feeling. It was clearly a low budget, shot on digital, direct to video release. Not to slag on low budget film makers, but I've seen too many of these kinds of movies in recent years that were unwatchable or not worth watching; I usually need to have them recommended by a trusted source to give them a shot. Too often they are ugly, poorly made, boring and lazy.

I can't recommend Salvage, but I will at least damn it with faint praise by saying that it was far more competent and watchable than most microbudget modern horror. There's still the awkwardness and insufficient atmosphere that often comes hand in hand with cheap digital photography, but the acting and filmmaking are generally passable.

The film's biggest problem, and I'm going to get into some major SPOILERS here, is that it becomes clear after a certain point that there's a big twist coming at the end, but not enough plot to sustain a feature, so the second half of the film is mainly wheel spinning until we get to the final revelation. I felt like, relatively early on, I already guessed the twist, and I became restless waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's not like the movie is shy about dropping hints, either. They pretty much jam it down your throat what's going to happen, that it wasn't a dream, the girl really was killed, and now she's in Hell reliving her murder over and over for eternity. And here's where I will give Salvage a little credit: the twist is slightly different than what you expect. Turns out that the girl isn't really the girl, she's the killer, now in Hell, being forced to live as his victim, believing he is her, and experiencing her death at his hands for eternity.

Nifty, but it raises some questions. Namely, that if the killer doesn't realize who he is and believes he is the girl, complete with her memory and everything... isn't that still like the girl was sent to Hell and not him? As the girl, the killer goes about her regular life, fools around with her boyfriend, even seems horrified at the end when her mother says "you're not my daughter." He retains no remnants of his personality until right before he is "killed." So it still seems like Hell is punishing the innocent young woman and not the killer.

Not that it matters, this little variation on an old, tired idea lends the movie just a little bit of novelty, and I won't deny it that.

Grade: C


Shenan said...

It just assumes the premise of a soul (which makes sense, if they're assuming the presence of hell). Despite identity or memories, the SOUL is that of the killer, and that soul is being punished, not the girl's.

Dan said...

Yeah, but if attached to that soul is an entire consciousness that it believes itself to be an innocent teenage girl, that consciousness certainly has to go through a lot of unfair suffering.

Shenan said...

Right, but the consciousness is not the essence of the person, in this case. In this situation, the soul is the one that drives actions and thus is held responsible, and punishable. The consciousness is just what the soul experiences. So the consciousness, in this case, is the punishment for the soul.

Dan said...

Okay, okay, I feel you. But...

If the soul is evil and deserving of eternal damnation, shouldn't there be some inkling of that in the new personality? The "girl" in the movie is a total innocent; there is no indication that she really has the soul of a murderer.

And if it's really the soul and not the person being punished, it doesn't really come off that way. The whole thing is designed as psychological and physical torture, nothing metaphysical, so it's basically as though a helpless teenage girl is being tortured. It just doesn't seem like appropriate damnation.

Let me put it this way, if I was murdered, and then found out that my killer died and went to hell, I wouldn't be thrilled to find out that the killer now has my memories/personality, believes he is me, and that this clone of myself is suffering for eternity.

Shenan said...

I also feel ya there. Perhaps if he had a more consistent sense of himself, or a even recurring one- like if he had flashes of his true identity throughout- it might be better punishment. But hey. Satan ain't perfect.

Dan said...

Well, to be fair, there was that scene where the girl looked into the mirror and saw the killer's face, and she did keep having recurring memories of the killer's death. But those felt more like clues about the twist ending than signs that she had an evil soul.

Dan said...

Also, don't you disparage the name of my dark lord ever again.