Resolution. 2012. Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead. Screenplay by Justin Benson.
Starring Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Emily Montague, Kurt David Anderson, Skyler Meacham, Josh Higgins, Zach McClarnon, & Bill Oberst Jr. Tribeca Film/Cinedigm.
Unrated. 93 minutes.
I dig Resolution, thoroughly. Maybe not totally sure on its meanings, what I see may not be what you see, or somebody else, or the next person from them. It’s one of those horror films that has a unique and odd feel about it. From beginning to end there’s an unsettling atmosphere that stretches out, lingering in every scene. While there are a couple missteps, directors Justin Benson (also the writer) and Aaron Moorhead make a damn good mystery-thriller that contains wonderful doses of horror stirred in for good measure.
The movie starts out like a personal drama between two friends, one trying desperately to help and save his drug addict friend who’s living out in the woods by himself, essentially waiting to die. After awhile, Resolution becomes very mysterious and engages its audience in a dialogue on film about how we relate to death onscreen.
When fictional murder is not enough, the invisible entity behind the lens of the camera creates its own real murder to satisfy the viewer. But are we really satisfied? Or should we be? That’s the question Benson seems to be asking in his screenplay. Maybe he’s not asking anything, simply stating. We, the audience, are left to judge.
The actors are what make everything work. Coupled with the script itself. With everything else happening in the overall narrative, the framing device of Mike (Peter Cilella) and Chris (Vinny Curran) powers this film’s soul. If we’re meant to have a discussion about, or at least think of, how an audience perceives and relates to death onscreen, then it’s essential for us to care about the possible victims. In this case, Mike and Chris find themselves in the way of the entity, or whatever it is you’d like to call it. Through Mike forcibly detoxing his friend, their entire situation makes the story more emotional. These guys make the friendship feel genuine. For guys who aren’t more well known, Cilella and Curran are excellent in the main roles. They give us a proper sense of two men who’ve known one another a long time, been through it all. Setting this up is a large part of why the film ultimately feels better than certain indie efforts out there, and does a lot for its seemingly lean budget.
This brings us to another aspect I love, that Resolution does not rely on cheap moments. There’s one brief shot that constitutes a jump scare, but it’s genuine. In that it comes out of an organic situation rather than a silly setup. Plus, I found it actually creepy. Otherwise, the creepiness of the film overall comes out of the slow burning mystery, the mounting thrills of the screenplay. So many reviews I came across before starting mine mentioned some of the aspects I liked, yet almost every one (honestly so god damn many) compared it to Cabin in the Woods. Honestly, I believe that one is more technically well made – mostly due to budget and the fact that movie could elaborate on their concepts bigger, more brash – while Resolution is the one I personally like the best. Not because I don’t like bigger budget stuff. In fact, I own Cabin in the Woods on Blu ray. Great flick. There’s just a quality to this one that gets me. As a former alcoholic and drug addict (sober for 6 years/clean for 7), maybe it’s the whole story of the friends. At the same time, I like to believe that the more unnerving, serious way Benson and Moorhead tackle their idea of horror as a construct, the product of an outside entity (whether it’s us as an audience or the unseen eye behind this movie’s lens), is more interesting than the wild, foolish (but awesome) way Whedon & Co. went about their horror picture.
One of the most compelling and important scenes is after Mike goes to find the owner of the dog killed on the property where Chris stays. He finds a man named Byron, played by the always engaging, often terrifying Bill Oberst Jr. First of all, Oberst is a talent. He is unsung in the mainstream, but genre fans and filmmakers alike realize his potential, which is why Benson and Moorhead have him playing this role. Byron is one of the French that came to the area Mike is so desperately trying to learn about. He seems to know more than he lets on, even though divulging a good bit of history for the curious fellow. Well, Byron gets into some strangely metaphysical thought. He starts talking of aliens, angels, ghosts. Then about how sometimes when he looks into the sky, he sees a film. Then another, and so on. Perpetually repeating itself.
“Beginning, middle, end,” says Byron hauntingly.
So the entity itself is like the perpetual film camera capturing the victims of various horror. Infecting people to repeat the cycle. The area where this movie is set becomes the breeding ground for horror cinema, a black hole where horror repeats itself, over and over, as the unknown entity above – and all around, the omniscient being – keeps its lens always on the action. Even insisting on its victims, not allowing any deviation from the script. There are no rewrites here, as the entity – the great director – must have its sacrifices. We, the audience, must be fed. Gradually, Mike and Chris start to find themselves a part of the massive cycle. They’ve stumbled onto the breeding ground for terror on film. Their parts cast and their performances already begun to be filmed.
“I think it wants a story with an ending,” Mike tells Chris.
SPOILER AHEAD – turn back or else be spoiled!
The lead actors must give themselves over eventually. At the end, Mike stands firm against it, Chris bends to one knee accepting reluctantly. That all-seeing entity of horror cinema hovers above like God and commands their respect.
With a weird and violently intense finale, Resolution turns into something bigger. In those last lines everything is finalised. Many seem to see this as an open-ended story. Me, I see it as a complete story. One with a highly definitive beginning, middle, and end. There’s no room in my mind for anything other interpretation. However, that goes against the spirit of any art, good or not. This is a fantastic little indie, from the guys that went on to do the amazing Spring. They’ve examined what it is to engage with horror. Not every step is the right one, nor is this close to being perfect. But Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead prove they’re quite capable of thinking outside the box, outside the frame so to speak. Despite its faults Resolution proves willing to subvert genre trappings, and exceeds independent film expectations in many ways. This is one to at least check out. Not everybody’s cup of tea, though you’re liable to find a surprise here or there, if not fall in love with it like I have over the past few years.