Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Christopher Denham
Written by: Christopher Denham
Starring: Pablo Schreiber, Aaron Staton, Wrenn Schmidt, Cody Saintgnue & Nick Saso
Christopher Denham snuck onto my radar in 2008 with his spectacularly frightening directorial debut titled HOME MOVIE. Over the years, that little low-budget film has cemented a spot as one of my top examples of found footage horror done right. I was eagerly awaiting what Denham would write/direct next. Seven years later, his sophomore directorial effort has been released. PRESERVATION is far more basic and by-the-numbers than HOME MOVIE. This being said, Denham’s second horror project is satisfying for the most part and plays like an updated take on the old tale of humans hunting humans with the addition of modern technology.
Wit, Mike, and Sean are a wife, husband, and brother-in-law on a weekend hunting trip. In a moment of undeniable horror movie logic, they make their way into closed-off area of the forest (always a good idea) and set up camp for the night. There’s already a lot of drama occurring between the three as Wit and Mike are having marriage problems, while Sean is coping with post traumatic stress disorder. All of their problems must be set aside, when the trio wakes to find that all their supplies have been stolen and Sean’s dog has gone missing. To make matters even creepier, it appears that someone could possibly be hunting them (complete with bait, booby traps, and vantage points). The three must dive deep into their killer instincts if they want to make out of the forest alive.
PRESERVATION doesn’t necessarily require a lot of brain activity going into it. This is a small-scale slasher flick. The script is very by-the-numbers, but the cinematography is far better than I expected and there’s a decent amount of suspense to be found. A handful of tense scenes had me glued to the screen in hopes that I would see a certain character overcome their current perilous situation and not wind up as a human trophy on a killer’s mantel. Time is taken to develop the characters in the first act and thus allows for more emotion to be thrown their way when shit hits the fan, even if the acting can be a bit iffy at points (mainly from Wrenn Schmidt as Wit).
Seeing as the film is basic and predictable, this leaves it vulnerable to a number of clichés. Some of which aren’t annoying, but there are a few scenes that made me roll my eyes and say “Really?” Stupid character decisions occasionally happen that could have easily fixed a problem if an ounce of logic had been used. There’s also a cheesy moment as the third act approaches that felt forced, though a plot revelation following it up was mighty clever. The idea behind the identity of the killer is a fairly cool one, even if its been done before in a few recent horror films of this type. The biggest problem that I have with PRESERVATION is that the movie rushes what should have been its most exciting piece of the story, the climax, into a series of quick confrontations that border on becoming repetitive. This being said, the movie gets dark and disturbing in places as the whole idea of humans hunting humans remains just as scary today as it was in Richard Connell’s 1924 story THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME.
Though a rushed final act, a number of clichés, and occasionally shaky acting keep it far from perfect or great, PRESERVATION should satisfy horror fans looking for something fun to kick off the new year. This is an entertaining (albeit predictable) and simple slasher-ish flick that kept me interested. So far, Christopher Denham is 2 for 2 in his directorial catalogue and hopefully, we’ll see him tackle another horror project sooner rather than later.