Imagine being camping in woods and being set upon by assailants, who steal your boots and make off with your supplies. Wait, that’s the Canadian tax-shelter survivalist horror, Rituals.

Along the same vein, Preservation (2014), a horror with sassy, smart chops and an interesting dynamic that sputters out midway with a long skid into silliness.

The Neary brothers, Mike and Sean drive into the wilderness with Mike’s wife, Wit. Minute One is the survivalist-horror trope of the long, meandering drive into nowhere to establish sense of place.

Sean is a hard-drinking no-nonsense veteran (the doer), Mike his white-collar corporate counterpoint (the thinker). Wit is caught in the middle, especially when Mike suspects Sean has designs on her.

There’s some interesting chat about the ethics of hunting, as well a wild and inspired slurred campfire speech by Sean about Artemis, daughter of Zeus, and goddess of the Hunt.

After a night of boozing, the turn in. So far so good.

In the early AM, they awake to find assailants have made off with their belongings (including firearms), their German shepherd is missing, and their foreheads marked for target practice.

There’s a lot of wasted opportunity here:

  1. for starters, the group’s destination — a national park — doesn’t appear particularly off the beaten track, despite being closed for the summer (Aqueducts and drainage pipes which doesn’t exactly lend themselves to a sense of remoteness).
  2. Key moments appear off-screen, including an animal trap escape (really tired, as an aside, of traps)
  3. Nothing transpiring in the dark. Darkness combined with remoteness produces additive horror.
  4. The masked antagonists. Even since the Purge series, masks have been over-used
  5. The idea behind the killers was interesting, but not handled as well as it could beFor survivalist alternatives, check out the Aussie Killing Ground, or the Canadian flicks, White Raven or Rituals.**1/2 (out of 5)

Most Likely to Die

This cap-n’-gown horror had us mortar-bored. The title, Most Likely to Die also doubles as a box office prediction, as this is one stinker of a slasher.

A group of idiots gathers for a 10-year reunion at the sprawling mansion of an ex-NHLer, Ryan (recently cut by the New York Rangers — thank YOU newspaper headline exposition).

Unfortunately, Ryan is nowhere to be found. His leering caretaker — another red herring in a movie with so many you could host a Ukrainian buffet — lets them in.

So, what has this group of highschool-obsessed nitwits accomplished in the interceding decade? Well, among their ranks there’s a famous TV star, Brad (Ryan Doom); a brooding drunk, Freddie (played by celeb blogger scum-bag Perez Hilton, who if his weathered face is any indication, graduated from the group’s high school at age 30); and wanna-be poker standout, Gaby (Glee’s Heather Morris).

They along with other friends (including the one stuck in a life of small-town hell) hash out the usual happy reminiscences and petty grievances over beers, until one of them stumbles upon a plot device point-of-discussion: that kid who was bullied and who then committed suicide, and who was complicit in his untimely demise.

So, Most Likely to Die goes down the I Know What You Did Last Summer/Pledge Night road: victims who possibly deserved their fate.

They’re hunted one by one by demented killer, “The Graduate”, although Most Likely to Die definitely qualifies as GED, rather than summa cum laude horror.

As he goes about his gruesome business, he crosses out victims on a “most likely to” high school yearbook collage.

This one features a ham-handed cell signal explanation, a victim-on-display in lights (a la seemingly every episode of Criminal Minds), a chaste strip tease, and garishly slick cinematography. Half a star awarded for a spectacular hockey stick kill, a nice companion piece to the skate-blade in Halloween H2O.

*1/2 (out of 5)

[Listen to our podcast discussion of Most Likely to Die!]