Baptized in Blood

by Glenn Lovell

Brazenly retrofitting a couple of memorable imports ‒ Spain’s “King of Hill,” for one ‒ Christopher Denham, bless him, still manages to deliver the year’s first decent horror quickie.

Yes, the mostly by-the-numbers “Preservation” (now PPV) will seem familiar to genre enthusiasts, but it’s fun to see the characters run through their prescribed duties as sitting ducks or resurrected avenging angel.


Hunters or hunted?

Brothers Sean (Pablo Schreiber) and Mike (Aaron Staton) head to the woods for some quality-time deer hunting. Mike’s medico wife, Wit (Wrenn Schmidt), comes along for the ride. Sean is an Iraqi war vet who may be suffering PTSD; Mike is a self-involved venture capitalist glued to his cell phone. Wit responds to the boys’ macho posturing with skepticism. “I’d rather be antiquing,” she sighs as they mark their trail a la Hansel and Gretel.

This being a survivalist number along the lines of “Wrong Turn” and, the granddaddy of all human-prey thrillers, “The Most Dangerous Game,” the brothers shrug off all ominous signs (“Park Closed,” et al.) and forge ahead.

“Isn’t there a fine or something if somebody catches us?” Wit wonders aloud.

“There’s nobody here ‒ this place is dead,” says Sean, unaware of how accurate he is.

At about 20 minutes in, Denham inserts creepy POV shots ‒ somebody is watching from the brush. About an hour in, the lone survivor crawls out of the muck (a symbolic rebirth) and turns the tables on the perpetrator(s).

If you’ve seen Gonzaol López-Gallego’s “King of the Hill,” the denouement won’t come as a surprise. Still, the basic situation is so primal, what young filmmaker could fight the temptation to recycle it? To his credit, Denham adds a few fun new wrinkles, including death by porta-potty.

As these things go, “Preservation” is fairly tame. Apart from a little do-it-yourself field surgery, the violence and gore effects are handled almost sheepishly. I’m guessing this will turn off more genre buffs than it attracts.

PRESERVATION    With Wrenn Schmidt, Pablo Schreiber, Aaron Staton. Directed, written by Christopher Denham. 88 min. Unrated (could be PG-13 for profanity, violence)

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