Gothic horror and erotic farce face a shotgun wedding in “Preservation,” an oddball Aussie pic which is part of a spurt of government funded hour-long features. Starring local thesp Jacqueline McKenzie (who made a splash with “Deep Blue Sea”) as Daphne, a 19th century taxidermist, pic is decidedly uneven. Minimal success on the fest circuit is possible, but in the world beyond “Preservation” is likely to have less life than the stuffed animals tended by the star.
When Daphne takes in handsome boarder Nick (Jack Finsterer), it spooks the gold-digging “spiritualist” photographer (Simon Burke) who has been trying to dazzle the fey taxidermist with a scam involving contact with her dead father. Nick, who hears his dead wife’s voice and has a bent toward self-mutilation, and Daphne share an inclination toward investigating each other’s belongings. They unearth incriminating diaries and erotic literature, which leads ultimately to an improbable romance. All this proceeds as pic sways awkwardly between poorly sustained suspense and rarely amusing gallows humor. Script nods to Hitchcock and Lynch, but anachronistic dialogue, lifeless perfs by supporting cast and an intrusive score do little to enliven proceedings.