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Hunters become the hunted in uneven thriller 'Preservation'

Review: 'Preservation' is a hunting-humans thriller that succeeds at times in rising above the genre

Until its characters behave illogically in the third act and the direction shows suspense fatigue, "Preservation" displays a flinty resolve to be better than your average woodsy-nightmare thriller.

Writer-director Christopher Denham sets up his trio of hunting weekenders — macho, recently returned veteran Sean (Pablo Schreiber), his hedge fund-managing brother Mike (Aaron Staton) and Mike's doctor wife, Wit (Wrenn Schmidt) — with some tart bro-rivalry and fraught-marriage dialogue. This is a group whose tensions, deftly played out by the fine actors, would enjoyably lead to implosion without any help, even if there weren't masked, silent killers lurking nearby to turn them into human prey.

But "Preservation" ultimately wants to be a tight little riff on "Deliverance"-ish rural hell and the breakdown of civility when it comes to saving your skin, and that means the second half is all survival games. And that's fine.

But while Denham has a few off-kilter tricks up his sleeve, namely the spiky-funny reveal about the killers, he flubs the various showdowns when he has his characters do dumb things (turning away from a not-dead assailant, following an obvious clue) to prolong the action. Its pretensions about humans-becoming-animals aside, "Preservation" is still pretty fun, if paradoxically more so before the blood sport begins.

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"Preservation"

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.

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