Preservation (2014)

Let’s Go Hunting:






That’s the trouble with this new generation – no respect for the classics, no sense of film history.  If the three protagonists of writer-director Christopher Denham’s survivalist thriller Preservation had ever watched Deliverance, Southern Comfort or even Hunter’s Moon, then as soon as they clapped eyes on that sign saying that the National Park was closed, they would have been gone before you could say ‘gap-toothed inbred hillbillies’.

Yet that would be the wrong expression, as it turns out; because although that kind of seventies/eighties City- Boys- in- Hell scenario is what we are set up to expect, this trip to the woods turns out to be closer in spirit to the 2008 nightmare , Eden Lake. And the more it began to resemble that horrific outing the more apprehensive I was getting, because that evil slice of nihilism upset me as much as any piece of cinema I’ve seen in recent years.

As it turns out, Preservation is – thankfully – nowhere near as disturbing, but actress Wrenn Schmidt as Wit Neary still gets to wade through as much blood and shit as the unfortunate Kelly Reilly did down by the lake.

Poster Children for the Gun Control Lobby

In actual fact, the set up in the first half hour was for me the most interesting.  I thought that Denham introduced his characters and gave us as much as we needed to know about them with a surprisingly deft and assured touch.

Wit is with her husband Mike (Aaron Staton), one of those twats that you hate to run into in the pub.  You know the sort:  mobile phone perpetually glued to his ear and irritating you with offers to play moronic youtube clips of cats getting flushed down toilets.  He’s a plank.

His older brother Sean (Pablo Shreiber) isn’t much better.  A stint in the army has obviously put the zap on his head big time, although to be honest I wasn’t entirely clear if he had actually seen action, imagined it or been kicked out during basic training for being a bloody liability.

Funny enough, I thought we might have something in common for a moment.  Explaining why he doesn’t carry a phone, he tells his brother:

“Cell phones emit mid-electro radiation.  Radiation affects brain waves, attention levels and testosterone”.

[Are you listening to this, Alan?  Just because I’m paranoid about everything doesn’t mean that I’m wrong.] 

Still, that’s all we had in common. As they set off on their deer hunting trip he comes out with beauties like: “We’re not watching the deer; they’re watching us”; or “Man’s the only animal that kills because it’s fun.”

As they observe that alcohol and guns are a family tradition and don’t see the contradiction in littering the woods whilst using biodegradable spay-paint, you begin to wonder how a nice Irish American lady like Wit married into this bunch.

Still, it’s good stuff to this point;  but when they come under attack, my main problem was finding it really difficult to believe that all three would sleep through the theft of their guns, equipment and even the damned tent that they were sleeping under –and having an ‘X’ marked on their foreheads, into the bargain.

If you can recover from that, however, what you have here is a very enjoyable and tense throwback to those movies of the past that I mentioned earlier.  Schmidt takes a fabulously physical role and you are rooting for her gutsy character all the way, whilst Denham keeps things moving along nicely, managing to rescue a few clichés with some genuine surprises.

Also, when he comes dangerously close to lecturing on how modern technology is desensitizing us, he instead pulls back and leaves us to figure things out for ourselves.

All in all, a fairly tight little shocker and if you like this kind of woodland mayhem then Preservation is definitely recommended.

And it’s not Birdman.

Thank God.




Author: Charley Brady

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