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International Premiere
  • USA
  • 2014
  • 88 mins
  • DCP
  • English
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Official Selection, Tribeca Film Festival 2014

“A sustained white-knuckler” – John Hopewell, VARIETY

“Morbidly twisted fun… subversive” – Matt Barone, COMPLEX

It seems at first like a bonding trip between a couple of brothers — Sean Neary (Pablo Schreiber), a soldier recently returned home from the battlefield, and Mike (Aaron Staton), driving into the woods. Then a new angle inside their truck reveals a third party: Mike’s wife Wit (Wrenn Schmidt), joining them for a camping excursion away from the problems and pressures of their lives and jobs. Only, Mike can’t cut the connection to his work, constantly talking on his cell phone as they hike past a “closed” sign into the trees. With Mike distracted, Wit starts warming to Sean’s alpha-male demeanour — until the trio wake up after their first night in the woods to find that the game has changed, and that they’re stranded far from civilization with no way to call for help, facing an unseen, ruthless and heavily armed threat.

So many cell phones have failed to get reception in horror movies that it’s a nice surprise just to see one in which the characters can make and receive calls from their remote environs. And PRESERVATION goes even further to make dependence on electronic interaction part of its plot and point. In his second film as writer/director, Christopher Denham (a familiar face as an actor in the likes of ARGO and SHUTTER ISLAND) follows up on the themes of his debut feature, the Fantasia 2008 world premiere HOME MOVIE, in which neither a father obsessed with videotaping his family life nor his wife can figure out how to deal with the increasingly disturbing reality his camera is capturing. PRESERVATION takes three people who have issues relating face to face and strips them of their wireless lifelines, forcing them to pull together against enemies who, when we eventually see them, communicate only via texts.

For all their on-line organization, though, these villains are sometimes physically fallible in the heat of the action — part of a dark satiric undercurrent flowing like a mountain stream under the surface of Denham’s survival thriller. Though the humour is disarming, it doesn’t dispel the urgency of the situation, as Denham choreographs a series of tense pursuits and confrontations amidst an unnerving sense of isolation. He also draws fine performances out of his three leads, who bring an authentic feeling of shared history before circumstances threaten to violently tear them apart.

— Michael Gingold