I know, I know, we’ve always been told to never judge a book by its cover. But, I can’t help myself. Sometimes, I make judgments based solely on a cover. This is a holdover of my youth, the heyday of the VHS rental store where I’d stand and study box art by the hour, if my parents would let me.
In the modern age, Netflix Instant Watch has come pretty close to replacing that nostalgic tradition of when I stood in the shadows of the horror section trying to make up my mind what I was going to watch next. The service is packed with titles. It’s filled with colorful cover art and broken into handy categories, sub categories and more. Let’s face it; we’ve all had those evenings where we planned to sit and watch something and spent the next forty five minutes just scrolling through the service to see what’s out there. The only thing missing is bad lighting and the smell of musty cardboard and stale popcorn.
That’s all a long winded way to say, sometimes when I sit down and start flipping through Netflix, I feel like a kid again. Eager to watch something new, something I may not have considered watching before. This typically leads to being mesmerized by all the pretty cover art. Which sometimes leads me to making the decision on what I’m going to watch, based solely on the cover art. Which is how I found myself sitting down and watching Preservation.
Released in early 2015, Preservation is a try to be smart thriller mixed with a healthy dose of revenge flick. Written and directed by Christopher Denham, the film has great aspirations in its story telling, but sadly feels a bit like two distinct stories mixed together. The challenging part is that both of these halves feel distinctly different in quality and storytelling. With the fact that the solid and more engaging part of the story fills the second half of the film, we are left with a bit of a chore in the first half of the film.
Sean, recently ousted from the military, is heading off for a hunting trip with his brother Mike and his new wife Wit. The setup is easy enough; the boys used to come to these woods as kids. Mike had originally planned on making the trip with Wit, but soon Sean shows up out of the blue and essentially invites himself along.
The first half of our film focuses on these three characters and their forced awkwardness, which leads to our first hurdle to get past. While none of the performances are particularly bad, neither are they overly convincing in their plight. There’s a secret Wit is keeping from Mike. There is Sean’s mysterious exit from the military. There is the forced awkwardness between these three as Sean meets his new sister in law for the first time and more. None of these traits come across in a fashion that leads the viewer to becoming emotionally invested in their tension. Instead, we’re left on the side lines waiting for these to finish having these uncomfortable little moments.
Thankfully, this problematic pace only lasts for the first thirty minutes or so of the show as soon, the trio wakes up and finds out somebody has been in their camp and stolen their gear. This is when we are introduced to the faceless antagonist trio that simultaneously ups the tempo of the film, but also brings the strong female character of Wit to the surface. People are hunted, revenge is sought and ultimately, the rest of the film plays out like your standard Strangers clone, in the woods.
The movie packs a surprising amount of violence for the initial setup. While it isn’t overly graphic, there will be scenes that leave you cringing from time to time. The biggest surprise though, is that after being forced to try and connect emotionally with these characters, we have a hard time continuing to be invested as the carnage starts. It’s Wit’s turn from a character you’re mostly overlooking, to one filled with conviction and one you can begin to empathize with that makes the second half of the film such a treat.
In the end, Preservation isn’t going to win any awards for originality. It’s not going to win any awards for mind blowing story telling. It will treat you to a fairly entertaining way to blow an hour and a half on a slow night though, which makes it a worthy add to your Netflix queue.
Plus, that cover is pretty great.