'Preservation': Film Review

Preservation Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Prodigy Public Relations

Preservation Still - H 2015

Survival never seemed less essential

A trio of city slickers are attacked by homicidal maniacs in the wilderness in Christopher Denham's low-budget thriller

It's a wonder anyone still goes camping these days with the preponderance of homicidal backwoods maniacs apparently having nothing better to do than play deadly cat-and-mouse games with hapless city slickers. That tired scenario, apparently unfamiliar despite such similarly themed movies as Deliverance and countless others, forms the crux of Christopher Denham's low-budget thriller in which a trio of would-be deer hunters are toyed with by masked predators who communicate by text messages. That technological updating and a few clever narrative twists are the sole saving graces of the otherwise pedestrian Preservation.

The potential victims are Sean (Pablo Schreiber, Orange is the New Black), a hard-drinking war veteran who, you guessed it, is displaying signs of post-traumatic stress; his hedge fund manager brother Mike (Aaron Staton, Mad Men), who, you guessed it, is a workaholic addicted to his cellphone even in the wilderness; and his anesthesiologist wife, Wit (Wrenn Schmidt, Boardwalk Empire) who, you guessed it, is a vegan who can't bring herself to shoot a deer even when she has it in her sights.

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The long setup depicts the growing tensions among the three characters, with the couple's marriage clearly foundering and Sean displaying some not-so-familial attraction to his sister-in-law. But their domestic problems quickly fall by the wayside when they wake up after an evening of drunken arguing only to find all of their possessions, including Sean's faithful German Shepherd, gone, and large X's painted on their foreheads.

Cue the ensuing mayhem, with Sean predictably taking the lead in attempting to track down their tormentors. To reveal more would be to spoil the film's few surprises, including the unlikely true nature of the villains. Suffice it to say that as the action progresses the formerly pacifist Wit suddenly channels her inner Rambo to become a fierce, take-no-prisoners warrior. Her final onscreen moment, cribbed from the '70s revenge thriller Death Wish, is laughably silly.

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Despite the competent performances by its TV-familiar leads, the film, featuring risible dialogue ("You killed my dog! Now I kill you!" and "You want to play? Let's play!" being but two examples) and endless instances of its characters acting stupidly, doesn't display enough survival skills to last in theaters very long.

Production: Present Pictures
Cast: Wrenn Schmidt, Pablo Schreiber, Aaron Staton
Director/screenwriter: Christopher Denham
Producers: Jennifer Dubin, Cora Olson
Executive producers: Connie Cummings, Anne Renton
Director of photography: Nicola Marsh
Production designer: Krista Gall
Editor: Brendan Walsh
Costume designer: Regina Amato
Composer: Samuel Jones
Casting: Doug Aibel, Stephanie Holbrook

No rating, 90 minutes