PRESERVATION (2014, streaming on Amazon Prime) is a survival horror thriller about three people who venture into the woods for a camping trip only to realize they’re being hunted. The film gets a lot right, but the script’s reliance on cliches and convenience weakens the overall result.
The film begins with Mike (Aaron Staton), his wife Wit (Wrenn Schmidt), and brother Sean (Pablo Schreiber) venturing into an abandoned state park for a camping weekend. Immediately, we’re introduced to tensions in the group. Sean is a damaged war veteran recently discharged, Mike is overwhelmed with work but trying to support his brother, and Wit is dismayed at how all this is affecting her marriage. The tensions deepen as we discover Sean is attracted to Wit, and that Wit has a secret. After a day of hunting, everything changes as the group’s gear is stolen, and they discover they’re being hunted.
PRESERVATION has some good things going for it. There’s some good direction and a solid score producing a sometimes creepy atmosphere, and while I don’t know Wrenn Schmidt, I’m familiar with Pablo Schreiber and Aaron Staton from THE WIRE and MADMEN, and consider them very capable actors. There’s a great setup here for a trio of people with deep tension between them suddenly finding themselves being hunted and forced to fight to survive, but it doesn’t pay off.
There is plenty of stilted dialogue the actors could only do so much with, but the main problem is the antagonists are omniscient and invincible until they’re not, and then they are again, etc., resulting in a pileup of horror movie cliches and nonsensical plot development that wrecked a film that otherwise could have been terrific cat and mouse survival horror with a message that in danger, humans will do anything to survive. Survival horror should bring the viewer into the story and let them participate in choices and consequences, but PRESERVATION rolled out for me more as a series of set pieces where things just happen in an easy predictable way. Most of the tension among the protagonists is also blown almost as soon as the antagonist reveals itself.
I hate bumming on art as I know how much effort and love goes into these things, but for me, PRESERVATION’s weak script tanks everything else that is promising about the film. I just can’t recommend this one.