Director Lawrence Gough Talks Salvage

18 March 2010 by Rob Daniel

Salvage-10Something wicked this way comes - Lawrence Gough on location with SalvageAfter decades cold on the slab, over the last ten years British horror has enjoyed a transfusion of new blood.  

28 Days Later, Shaun Of The Dead, The Descent, and Tony are a few examples of this new wave of horror engulfing Britain, and joining them is Salvage.

Made on a very low budget by director Lawrence Gough, this short, sharp shocker (79 lean, mean minutes) is very much a for out times tale about something nasty washing up on the Merseyside beach and bringing madness and murder to a cul-de-sac made famous by a certain Liverpudlian soap.

But, Salvage is also the story of one woman's fight through Hell to rescue her daughter, with Neve McIntosh offering a performance of real conviction as the mum battling soldiers and other nasties to reach her kid a few houses, and much danger, away.

Gough and co-writer Colin O'Donnell's attention to character and menace alongside well-executed gore makes Salvage a cut above other society run rampant movies.  We caught up with Lawrence to discuss his ghoulishly good chiller.

Salvage-07Neve McIntosh in SalvageSky Movies: What attracts you to horror?

Lawrence Gough: Lots of things really. When we talk about horror I mean traditional horror in that it relates to character and addresses contemporary issues and contemporary fears. 

To me that’s what good horror does, I’m not into the torture stuff.  I find it nonsensical finding interesting ways to kill people.
I’m more interested with what’s going on the in the world; with Salvage it was using terrorism as a backdrop for fear, and my next film The Drought is an ecological horror about the effects of a drought in the UK, and the how it affects the population.  
SM: How did you come to make Salvage?
LG: From 2003-2006 I made a series of shorts funded by the UK Film Council, and one of the very early ones was a film called The Replacement which is about a couple who get involved with a military experiment.
I liked the idea of expanding that, as I was taken with the idea of a sleepy suburban cul-de-sac waking up to a very bad day and how the residents would react. 
But, there was something I hadn’t unlocked in the story, and in February ’07 I flicked on the news and the MSC Napoli (a ship containing hazardous chemicals) had run aground in Devon. Containers had washed up and all these people were looting the contents, and I realised this was the missing link:  what if something terrible was in one of these containers, and due to human greed and curiosity it was released and escaped into sleepy suburbia? 
Salvage-08There's no escapeSM: And you can’t get much more sleepy that Brookside Close?

LG:  Ha, ha, I knew you were going to bring that up!
SM: I never watched the show so didn’t recognise it, but as you were directing in Britain’s most famous cul-de-sac did you think, I’m really going to have to shoot this in a different way?

LG: Yeah, we kept off the wide shots because the close has been shot from every single direction. So, we didn’t want it to detract from our story, although Salvage does nod to soaps – for the first 20 minutes before the army helicopters arrive you could almost be in one. That was deliberate to draw the audience in.
I hated the idea of shooting there at first and all the press were jumping on the Brookside aspect. But, there’s no way with the budget we had I could have built a 360 degree 14 house close with gardens, therefore I stood on Brookside and thought this is an absolute must if I’m going to achieve this film.
So I tracked down the owner and managed to do a deal with him.
SM: And has he seen the film?

LG: No, because he went bankrupt and the baliffs came in and marched us off the set! Just before we went into shooting, so we had to do a bit more negotiating, pay a bit more money and we were allowed back on.
SM: Apart from baliffs, what were the other challenges for a low budget film that has the army, helicopters, gore, and a monster?
LG: Well, I had to quickly adopt the less is more approach, and I still feel the reveal of the monster at the end is my biggest issue with the film. I didn’t feel the design was quite right and we maybe should have showed less, working on a hidden fear. 
Ultimately though it was working within our constraints. Not having money doesn’t allow you to throw cash at an issue; you have to think, I either rewrite or shoot around this.

But, on one level you don’t need a lot of money to make a good film. If you’ve got the essence of a good story there are ways to make it work creatively rather than financially. 
When Colin and I wrote the script it was in a very loose way, but after getting Brookside we rewrote it totally with that in mind. Organically the location informed the way we could film.

We shot on HDV, a low format but it allowed us lots of long takes, very documentary style, and the actors were free to move around and experiment, so the constraints worked for us.
Salvage-05Stay away from the light!SM: But, horror fans won’t be disappointed. The gore FX work well and Salvage is a wince-inducing movie...
LG: Yeah, David Jones the prosthetic artist did a great job on very reduced rates. He’s worked on huge things like Pirates of the Caribbean, but liked the story and our passion and was willing to come down for a short time so we schedule him in to get the most of his energies. 
SM: Salvage has a real sense of claustrophobia, but conveys a real fear of stepping outside the house. How tricky was it creating that atmosphere of dread for the first fifty minutes?

LG: Well, that was the one thing we could do that didn’t require money. We liked the structure of the script - the first time you meet the main character Beth she’s having a one-night stand, neglecting her visiting  daughter, and you have to earn the right to get the audience to buy into this woman's story.

Then slowly we drip feed information about her and the one-night stand so you understand them, but hold back until near the end to reveal what is actually going on.  

What we don’t know is the scariest thing, I was working to the model of Jaws or Open Water, that you have an idea what’s underneath, but you don’t know for sure. 

The film's sense of claustrophobia and the fear and tension it creates is what I'm most proud of. 

SM: The BBFC gave the film an “18” – what did you think of that?

LG: I was quite surprised by it; I thought it was going to be a “15” but maybe I’m a bit desensitised to this violence!
Salvage-03Hunt down Salvage now...SM: Neil Marshall said when The Descent got a cert. 18 he was quietly proud because he feels proper horror still gets the 18. How do you feel about your "18"?

LG: When you’re talking about certificates, you’re talking about revenue and a 15 would reach a wider audience. But, an 18 does have that seal of approval that this is a horror film.  People won’t be thinking, this is only a 15 therefore it can’t be that horrible! 
But, as long as some people get along to see it I’m happy, and it was a great to see the BBFC cert come through… that was nice!

Rob Daniel

Fans of 28 Days Later, REC, Drag Me To Hell, and other imaginative horror films are strongly advised to check out Salvage.  And to make it easy, the film is showing on Sky Box Office the same time as in cinemas from Friday 19th March. 

Sky customers can press the Box Office button on their remote controls to enter the fear factory...