×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Preservation’

Christopher Denham's suspenseful survival drama is an ingenious variation on 'The Most Dangerous Game.'

With:
Wrenn Schmidt, Pablo Schreiber, Aaron Staton, Cody Saintgnue, Michael Chacon, Nick Saso.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3138558/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Although the logline may suggest yet another variation on the “Most Dangerous Game” playbook  hunters become prey during an out-of-season visit to a nature preserve Preservation” ultimately impresses as an arrestingly suspenseful thriller that takes clever narrative twists and turns while moving through familiar territory. It’s difficult to give writer-director Christopher Denham full credit for his ingenuity without spoiling at least two genre-tweaking surprises. But respectful reviews and favorable word of mouth could help this small-budget indie not just survive but thrive in various platforms.

Even during the leisurely paced expository scenes, Denham suggests undercurrents of trepidation while constructing his setup and introducing his three main characters: Sean (Pablo Schreiber), a tightly coiled Afghanistan War vet who seems intent on drinking away bad memories; Mike (Aaron Staton), his workaholic businessman brother, who remains inextricably attached to his smartphone even during a weekend getaway; and Wit (Wrenn Schmidt), Mike’s wife, an ER-experienced anesthesiologist who gamely joins her husband and brother-in-law on a hunting trip, despite being a vegan with little enthusiasm for shooting live targets.

Sean’s portentous pronouncements about survival of the fittest  “Man is the only animal who kills because it’s fun!”  do little to bring out the happy huntswoman in Wit. But her brother-in-law’s words inevitably come back to haunt her as the three weekend vacationers realize they are not alone in the nature preserve they thought they had to themselves.

Denham shrewdly tightens the screws with some cheeky but dead-serious visual allusions to other thrillers  a bit of “Blair Witch Project” here, a smidgen of “Friday the 13th” there  before upending expectations with a startling reveal at the two-thirds mark. And that leads a few scenes later to a turnabout that likely would be best appreciated as a member of a cheering theater audience.

Despite a few fleeting clumps of inadvertently comical dialogue  “You killed my dog! Now I kill you!”  Denham’s scenario serves as an efficient blueprint for an attention-grabbing, adrenaline-pumping survival drama artfully seasoned with horror-movie tropes. Performances by the three leads are first-rate across the board, with Schmidt coming off as a standout by dint of the skill with which she rises to the challenges of third-act developments.

Tech values are everything they need to be for “Preservation” to work as well as it does.

Film Review: 'Preservation'

Reviewed online, Houston, Jan. 8, 2015. Running time: 90 MIN.

Production: An Orchard release of a Certainty Films presentation of a Present Pictures production. Produced by Jennifer Dubin, Cora Olson. Executive producers, Connie Cummings, Anne Renton.

Crew: Directed, written by Christopher Denham. Camera (color), Nicola Marsh; editor, Brendan Walsh; music, Samuel Jones, Alexis Marsh; production designer, Krista Gall; costume designer, Regina Amato; sound, Michel Tyabji; casting, Doug Aibel, Stephanie Holbrook; assistant director, Justin Oberman.

With: Wrenn Schmidt, Pablo Schreiber, Aaron Staton, Cody Saintgnue, Michael Chacon, Nick Saso.

More Film

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content