With filmmaker Christopher Denham’s survival horror feature Preservation set for its L.A. premiere this coming Friday, October 17, at 9:45 pm at the prestigious Screamfest Film Festival, read on for our exclusive interview, and have a look at some stills and a clip from the flick.
Written and directed by Denham, the narrative of Preservation (according to the official synopsis) revolves around the character of Wit, a brainy anesthesiologist (who) heads out on a hunting trip in a forest preserve with her husband, Mike, a hedge fund manager, and his brother, Sean, a former Marine. When the brothers are stalked and captured by three local hunters, Wit must unleash her own animal instincts or else end up a trophy.
Produced by Jennifer Dubin and Cora Olson and starring Wrenn Schmidt, Aaron Staton, and Pablo Schreiber, Preservation has been described as a “sustained white knuckler” by John Hopewell of Variety.
Chatting with filmmaker Denham, who previously wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Home Movie, for which he won the Citizen Kane award for “Best New Director” at the Sitges International Film Festival and the Silver Audience Award at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, he stated of Preservation, “It was partly inspired by a hunting and camping trip I took in Texas. (During it) we kept hearing the distant sound of bicycles following us. You don’t usually hear bike chains in deep woods without trails. For the next two days we didn’t know who the hell was out there. We just knew we were being watched. Jack London always wrote about man’s survival instinct. There’s some famous quote of his about, ‘A dog can be domesticated. So can a man. In the woods both remember what they are.’ That trip made me wonder what it would take for me to take a life.”
Concerning principal photography, “We shot this fast and furious in eighteen days in and around Los Angeles,” said the filmmaker. “We had originally planned to shoot in upstate New York where I live, but it became easier for the actors to shoot out West (so) we cobbled together a few wooded areas and made it feel Midwestern,” expounded the multi-talented Denham, who as an actor has appeared in (among other things) Ben Affleck’s Academy Award-winning Argo, for which he received a SAG Award for Best Ensemble Performance.
“We did have some complications, but just because of the short shooting schedule,” he continued. “I’m an actor myself, and the one thing I wanted to do was to give my actors time to experiment, but unfortunately, we just didn’t have that many takes to spare. But these actors all come from the theater, and we had some rehearsals which gave us a good baseline going in. When you have actors like Schreiber, Staton, and Schmidt, you trust their instincts. And Nicola Marsh, our director of photography, had shot some documentaries so she knows how to work fast and she knows how to capture the moment. Not the moment as you preconceived it, the moment that is unfolding… the actual truth you’re trying to capture.”
Shot on the Red Epic with anamorphic lenses, Denham said of the choice, “Shooting anamorphic was essential. Nicola and I really wanted the empty frame margins (like) in Carpenter’s Halloween; (it keeps) the audience always scanning the peripheries for a possible threat.”
Also like Halloween, “Spoiler alert,” said Denham, “but this film isn’t about blood and guts. You won’t see a half-naked woman being eviscerated or anything. What you don’t see, in my opinion, is always scarier than what you do. It’s really about ratcheting up the suspense.”
As for his film’s selection by Screamfest, Denham concluded, “We are totally honored to be a part of Screamfest. They have the most loyal and passionate fans out there, of which I am one. The lineup this year is outstanding.”
To purchase tickets to the Screamfest premiere of Preservation, click here. Screamfest runs from October 14th to the 23rd.