An anesthesiologist (Wrenn Schmidt) must awaken her animal instincts when she, her husband and her brother-in-law become the quarry of unseen hunters who want to turn them all into trophies.
Self preservation is something we all have inside of us. When we are pushed into a corner we often act in surprising ways in order to protect ourselves. The film ‘Preservation’ (get it?) focuses on a wife and expectant mother being forced to do (violent) things to protect herself and her unborn baby. A film which starts with so much promise eventually turns into something we have seen numerous times with nothing new to say.
Wit Neary (Wren Schmidt) is travelling with her husband Mike (Aaron Staton) and his brother Sean (Pablo Schreiber) to go camping in the secluded woods (even though there is a large sign which tells them that the park is closed and this is just one of many stupid things the characters do). Wit and Mike are having problems in their marriage whereas brother Sean has problems of his own, only recently being discharged from the army. The three of them begin their getaway by hunting deer (the analogies in the film are endless) and bickering between themselves. After falling asleep and waking up the next day with all their gear gone and X marked on their head a game of cat and mouse begins against a group of masked assailants.
As mentioned before the beginning hour starts off with a lot of promise, with three leads that are as strong as this the character development is top notch. While watching the first half I had no idea whatsoever where the film was going to take me and this is always a joyous thing in any film. Staton from ‘Mad Men’ and Schreiber from ‘Orange is the New Black’ were both well rounded and believable in creating a brotherly bond even though their characters are quite unlikable. This sort of writing for character can be rare in today’s US horror so it seemed to tempt me that the rest of the film was going to follow this strength. The film is also extremely stylish from scene one and well shot which is very aesthetically pleasing and allows for some nice grisly deaths. But brother! How things can change!
As soon as the action ramps up and we are given clues as to what type of film we are in for ‘Preservation’ literally becomes a by the numbers horror/hunter romp. Now don’t get me wrong I love me some hunting human sport if done right. This film reminded me a lot of the horrific/wonderful Eden Lake also about a couple being hunted by a group of killers. In Eden Lake my stomach turned and I was sick because of the brutality and also the likability of the main characters. Even though the characters in ‘Preservation’ were very three dimensional they weren’t all together likeable which is always a problem when they become the victims.
Once push comes to shove Wit becomes a killing machine even though at the beginning she tells Sean she is vegan and can’t kill animals. I get this is what the title of the film is implying I just didn’t see the transition in the film. Her super skills at slaughtering humans seems very unconvincing especially compared to her meek and prissy attitude at the beginning of the film. ‘You’re Next’ released last year also has a similar strong female revenge machine but even that film gave her an excuse as why she was so skilled with weaponry; whereas Preservation has no explanation of Wit’s newfound soldier skills.
Wit’s development isn’t the only problem in the second half. Once we find out who the hunters are (SPOILER ALERT) it becomes another lecture in the problems with today’s youth who are consumed with technology and violent video games. In one scene the boy hunters are sitting next to each other and texting one another instead of talking, I mean this is a tiny bit over the top and on the nose. I felt like the film was made by an adult who is out of touch with the youth of today and gives an explanation which is hammy and tired. ‘Preservation’ doesn’t do anything new with this plot reveal which is why it made the second half so disappointing and not shocking in the slightest.
I might be being a bit too harsh on the film but when you have such a promising beginning disappointment can be much worse compared with a film which is just bad through out. ‘Preservation’ is a well made film that did capture my attention it’s just once it started to take the road most travelled I let out a sigh and wished that director Christopher Denham had something more to say.