A Chilling Pictures production. (International sales: Chilling Films, Brisbane.) Produced by Della Churchill.
Directed, written by Sofya Gollan. Camera (color), Cordelia Beresford; editor, Simon Martin; music, Amanda Brown; production designer, Elizabeth Mary Moore. Reviewed at Sydney Film Festival, June 12, 2003. Running time: 54 MIN.
With: Jacqueline McKenzie, Jack Finsterer, Simon Burke, Fiona Martenelli.
Gothic horror and erotic farce face a shotgun wedding in "Preservation," an oddball Aussie pic that's part of a spurt of government-funded hourlong features. Starring local thesp Jacque-line McKenzie (who made a splash with "Deep Blue Sea") as Daphne, a 19th-century taxidermist, pic is decidedly uneven. Minimal success on the lest circuit is possible, but in the world beyond "Preservation" is likely to have less life than the stuffed animals tended by the star.
When Daphne takes in handsome boarder Nick (Jack Finsterer), it spooks the gold-digging "spiritualist" photographer (Simon Burke) who has been trying to dazzle the fey taxidermist with a scam involving contact with her dead father. Nick, who hears his late wife's voice and has a bent toward self-mutilation, and Daphne share an inclination toward investigating each other's belongings. They unearth incriminating diaries and erotic literature, which leads to an improbable romance. All this proceeds as pic sways awkwardly between poorly sustained suspense and rarely amusing gallows humor. Script nods to Hitchcock and Lynch, but anachronistic dialogue, lifeless perfs by supporting cast and an intrusive score do little to enliven proceedings.