When an abusive husband suffers from a concussion, his loving wife finally has enough. With the help of his sister, the much put upon victim of abuse turns the tables on the man she loves.
I’ll be honest… Salt
didn’t seem too promising in the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Bradford Tatum
who wrote/directs/produces and stars (I think he has a set design credit also… catering maybe?) in the film, had a good idea, but I didn’t think he could sustain it. This is a very low-budget feature that relies on character and story. There are no effects, the set design is sparse (yet it works) and the plot takes sweet time to develop. As I said, I thought for sure this house of cards would fall apart. Boy was I wrong. This is a fascinating, dark, sensual experience that reaffirms my belief that there are stories out there that are original and terrifying. As I mentioned, the horror is pure psychological cruelty and desperation with a little lust thrown in.
It begins as Randal (Tatum) arrives home with some nasty words for his wife Phoebe (Alexandra Wilson
). Their relationship is heartbreaking. Phoebe is a woman who still loves her artist husband, even though he seems to want nothing to do with her. He won’t touch her and he seems terrified at the idea of being next to her. This fear or paranoia he carries with him leads to anger and violence. He treats her as if she is nothing, while she seems to wonder where the person she loved has gone. After getting hit in the head, Randal finds himself at Phoebe’s mercy. It is a serious accident leaving him with a concussion. As he gets better, a new element changes everything for this happy little couple. And that element is Randal’s sister West (Stacy Haiduk
). When she arrives, she feeds into Phoebe’s frustration and soon seduces her.
One of the signs of a concussion is the loss of smell. That, and a spoonful of salt lead to a very dark tale that would make Alex from Fatal Attraction
proud. While not a gory film, at all, the relationships and how far they drift into retribution is fascinating. It is also very deeply sexual for an independent film. And I’m not saying exploitive, far from it. The nudity is so matter of fact that it offers up a quick moment of shock, but it feels absolutely pivotal to the plot. These actors are all so very well connected that when the clothes come off, it is just an extension of the psychological nakedness they find themselves. At one point or another, I felt sympathy for each one of these people. Randal is despicable. But Phoebe’s act begins to occur, there is a tinge of regret. Not so much for him, but where she is going. This is brilliant work from all three actors, which really says quite a bit for Mr. Tatum. In fact, my only problem with the film is the end, I would have preferred they not go this route, but it is merely a couple minutes and does little damage to this thought provoking thriller.
This is the kind of independent film that should find an audience. I love when filmmakers take their time to create a story that is rich in character and therefore, makes the impending doom seem all the more disturbing. Bradford Tatum somehow handles his many duties on the film much better than you’d expect. Even though I felt that the beginning really exploited this pretentious air of his character as an artist, it began to meld with the his downfall. In fact, the artwork is used to add a cold and disturbing layer. I highly recommend Salt if you like your thrillers with intelligence and fearlessness.