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Film / Preservation

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Preservation is a 2014 horror thriller film that was directed by Christopher Denham. It had its world premiere on April 17, 2014 at the Tribeca Film Festival and stars Wrenn Schmidt as a woman trapped in a forest preserve, stalked by maniacs.

Hoping to escape their own troubles, Wit (Wrenn Schmidt), her husband Mike (Aaron Staton), and his brother Sean (Pablo Schreiber) decide to head out into a secluded forest preserve on a hunting trip. Mike is hoping that this will help Sean deal with his PTSD while Wit is hoping that she can rekindle her sagging relationship with Mike, who seems to be more interested in spending time on his cellphone than with her. Once they reach their destination the trio is undeterred by signs proclaiming that the preserve is closed and they continue on with their vacation unabated. The already strained atmosphere is made even worse when they wake up the next morning to discover that someone has stolen all of their belongings and marked each person's forehead with a big black "X". As the trio tries to deal with their existing stresses and the new fear of being hunted, they begin to turn on one another.


  • Abandoned Playground: An old playground, covered in graffiti and obviously seen better days, is located within the preserve. A couple of tense scenes take place here.
  • Action Survivor: Wit is a city girl anaesthetist who accompanies her husband and brother-in-law on a hunting trip in the hope of reviving her flagging relationship with her husband. She doesn't even like hunting, and finds herself unable to shoot a deer. However, when the group finds itself being stalked by a trio of masked hunters, and the men are taken down, she finds herself fighting a desperate battle against her stalkers.
  • Agony of the Feet: Mike steps in a Bear Trap and severs a tendon in his foot.
  • Bad Boss: The leader of the psycho teens isn’t particularly nice to his cohorts. When one of them wants to give up on looking for Wit and go home, the leader steals his inhaler and starts drowning him in the stream until he complies to stay.
  • Bear Trap: Mike sets a bear trap when he and Sean are setting snares for the deer. The hunters reposition it and Mike later steps in it himself.
  • The Can Kicked Him: Mike knocks out one of the hunters by repeatedly slamming his head against the toilet bowl in the portable toilet.
  • Cat Scare: Mike thinks he hears a noise and goes searching the edge of the camp. He hears a rustling in the bushes and goes to investigate, only to have Sean's dog Buck jump out at him.
  • Chain Pain: During their final confrontation, the last hunter is carrying a length of chain that he uses to strangle Wit.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Every item Wit uses as a weapon against the hunters is established as either being in the truck on the drive to the park, or she purchased when they stopped at the gas station.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Wit chides Mike for casually discarding a broken beer bottle on the way into the park. Later, she uses that same bottle to stab one of the hunters in the throat.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Sean shows off to Mike and Wit at the start by sneakily hanging upside-down from a tree. Wit later mimics this in the climax to get the jump on the hunter leader.
  • Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb: Happens when Wit is climbing the cliff to get out of the park without using any of the trails. She turns to look back into the valley, slips, and just manages to catch herself before she falls off the cliff.
  • Dead Animal Warning: Not so much warning as bait, but Sean finds his dog Buck murdered and strung up from a tree.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: A woman, her husband, and her brother-in-law go on a hunting trip in a state forest: ignoring the signs saying that the park is closed. Overnight, all of their gear is stolen and the trio find themselves being stalked by a group of maniacs bent on Hunting the Most Dangerous Game.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: The eldest of the psycho teens has Wit tied to a picnic table and is about to kill her when his mobile phone rings. He halts, steps away from the table, and takes the call. It's his mother, and he proceeds to have a perfectly ordinary conversation where he tells her that he is just hanging out with his friends, that he'll be home in a couple of hours, and that she shouldn't worry.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Less than 48 hours.
  • Face Doodling: Wit, Mike, and Sean wake up to find that someone has stolen all of their gear, and drawn a big black "X" on each of their foreheads.
  • Foreshadowing: As Wit, Mike and Sean hike through the playground, the camera lingers on the slide and then travels inside it, revealing a huge pile of shoes. These shoes were stolen by the hunters from their earlier victims.
  • For the Evulz: No reason is given why the teens are Hunting the Most Dangerous Game. They just are.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Wit stabs one of the hunters in the throat with the broken neck of a bottle Mike had discarded earlier.
  • Heroic Second Wind: As Wit is being strangled to death by the leader of the hunters, she begins to have visions of Mike, giving her enough strength to grab the broken bottle nearby and stab the hunter in the neck with it, killing him.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: An anesthesiologist must awaken her animal instincts when she, her husband, and her brother-in-law become the quarry of unseen hunters who want to turn them all into trophies.
  • Improvised Weapon: When Wit surprises one of the hunters with her gun to the back of his neck, he quickly whips around and sprays her in the face with his asthma inhaler, attempting to give himself time to draw his own gun.
  • Kick the Dog: The hunters abduct Sean's dog Buck, kill him, and string him up from a tree for Sean to find.
  • Kinda Busy Here: The eldest of the psycho teens has Wit tied to a picnic table and is about to kill her when his mobile phone rings. He halts, steps away from the table, and takes the call. It's his mother, and he proceeds to have a perfectly ordinary conversation where he tells her that he is just hanging out with his friends, that he'll be home in a couple of hours, and that she shouldn't worry.
  • MacGyvering: Wit makes a needle out of wire from the car's ignition and uses dental floss as thread to sew up her scalp wound.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The three silent hunters all wear featureless masks.
  • Matchlight Danger Revelation: A variant. Mike goes off into the woods at night to take a call. He hears some noises, but he ends up only being surprised by Sean’s dog, Buck. A relieved Mike decides to take a selfie with Buck… and the light from the phone illuminates the surrounding area, revealing for an extremely quick second that one of the hunters is standing not far behind them. Although nothing happens to them. Yet.
  • One-Word Title
  • Road-Sign Reversal: Mike and Sean insist on going hiking off trail over Wit's objections. Mike paints trail markers (a smiley face) on trees as they go to mark the way back. However, when he and Wit are fleeing the hunters while trying to find their way back to the main trail, they find the hunters have painted the same symbol on all of the trees in the surrounding area: meaning they have no way of knowing which way to go.
  • Schmuck Bait: After having all their items stolen, Mike and Wit wander aimlessly through the woods. Mike notices several water bottles hanging from a tree. He sees nothing suspicious about this, and, unsurprisingly, ends up stepping on a Bear Trap the hunters moved there as a trap.
  • Self-Surgery: Wit stitches up her scalp wound using a needle made of crimped ignition wire, and using dental floss as thread.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Sean is a discharged veteran recently returned from Afghanistan who is suffering from PTSD.
  • Short-Distance Phone Call: The psycho teens only communicate with each other via text, even when they are sitting right next to one another.
  • Teens Are Monsters: The three silent Malevolent Masked Men stalking the trio through the woods turn out to be teenage boys.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: All three of the psycho hunters look (and act) like normal teenage boys without their masks. One is shown playing games on his phone, another is shown to have asthma and uses an inhaler, he and the leader text each other (while sitting five feet apart, no less), and the leader has a completely casual phone conversation with his mother.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: Wit attempts to hotwire the truck, but it doesn't work. When she checks the engine, she discovers the hunters have stolen the battery.
  • Water Wake-up: The last hunter empties a bottle of water on the captive Wit's face to wake her up.
  • With Friends Like These...: The hunter leader doesn’t treat his cohorts the best, even stealing the inhaler of the asthmatic one, silently threatening not to give it back and beginning to drown him until he complies to stay and keep searching for Wit. The third hunter just quietly ignores this quarrel, clearly not wanting to get involved.
  • Wrench Whack: Wit brains one of the hunters with the lug wrench out of the truck.