September 29, 2015 Preservation (Movie Review)
The suspension of disbelief on the part of the viewer of any movie, Horror through rom-com, is necessary in order to fully enjoy the story and how it is presented. In 1970’s Jaws, one had to believe a giant shark would hang out at one resort town killing anything that set foot in the water. In 1980’s Friday the 13th, it took a leap of faith to accept that Jason Vorhees could not be killed—or even seriously injured—no matter what happened to him. In 2014’s Preservation, the leaps are large, and numerous.
The film opens with a running shot of an SUV driving out of a suburban neighborhood into the woods. While they drive, Writer/Director Christopher Denham (As actor: Shutter Island 2010, The Bay 2012) introduces the main characters who are going out for a weekend hunting trip- Brothers Sean (Pablo Schreiber: The Manchurian Candidate 2004, Lords of Dogtown 2005)and Mike Neary, (Aaron Staton: Mad Men 2007, L.A. Noire 2011) as well as Mike’s wife Wit, (Wrenn Schmidt: Our Idiot Brother 2011, Person of Interest 2011). The brothers sing a version of the children’s song, “The bear went over the mountain,” which does not end well for the bear. They tell stories of their youth where we learn that they enjoyed abusing and killing animals—and that Mike’s wife Wit seems to be okay with all of that.
Right off the bat, they are not a likable group. Brother Sean has a mysterious past regarding the circumstances of his being discharged from the military. During an impromptu game of Truth or Dare, Wit asks Sean about it, but instead of answering the question, he tells a story about playing War as a child and that he was the best at killing all of the other boys. Is this a hint at what he has been through? The relevance is never explained, but the viewer believes that Sean is an ex-soldier and therefore, would be able to use his training and experience in the inevitable standoff with whatever evils lurk in the woods.
Mike is a workaholic who cannot stop making, or answering, calls. This behavior irritates his wife who wants this trip to give them a break from their lives, and maybe start a family. Unbeknownst to Mike, she is already got that ball rolling. Tensions arise between Mike and his brother over perceived sexual chemistry between him and his wife. This animosity comes to a head the next morning when they awake to find that all of their gear, and a full-grown German Shepard, have been stolen during the night.
This is not the first—or last—point in the film that must be believed without bringing logic, or plausibility into play, but it is certainly the biggest. Not only is the dog taken without being discovered, all of their supplies, weapons, even the tent that Mike and Wit are sleeping in disappear without a trace. All three characters awake with nothing but the clothes they wore when they went to sleep, and unexplained black X’s written on their foreheads. Buy into this, and the movie is enjoyable. Choose to get stuck at this point, and the rest of the film is a series of, “no way” moments.
Sean, using his training, discovers three sets of tracks through their camp, gets Mike and Wit on a path back towards their vehicle, and begins to search for his missing dog. He is soon lured deeper into the woods where he is able to surprise, and wound, one of their pursuers. In the meantime, Mike and Wit split up after Mike is duped into stepping on a trap he left behind in another part of the forest. Once they part ways, Wit’s character begins to shine. The metamorphosis that she goes through is what makes this movie worth seeing, the rest is just a set up for her change.
Earlier in Preservation, Sean tells the story of Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the hunt. He describes how she transforms into a great huntress to kill a bear by thinking and disguising herself like one. Like Artemis, once Wit is on her own with only the instruction to, “kill them all,” her look and demeanor change to that of a warrior-mother exacting revenge on those that hurt her loved ones. The murderers are revealed for who and what they are, and this is the truly scary part of this film. The final scene of her escape, is chilling in its depiction of what she has had to become in order to survive. The movie, is well acted, the makeup effects are well done, and—with the exception of the required leaps of faith—the story well told.
Preservation is frightening because the monsters are not generic, immortal, mindless, ghouls. Who they are is plausible right now in a neighborhood near you. CrypticRock gives this movie 3.5 out of 5 stars.