Since he can't keep resolutions after New Year's Eve, maybe Judge Michael Nazarewycz will wait 'til Halloween.
"I think they were searching for monsters and they found each other."
I'm presently enjoying something of a horror movie renaissance. I enjoyed the genre in the late '70s and '80s, but once the sequels and the knockoffs started piling up quicker than the dead bodies, I lost interest and focused my attention on other genres, enjoying the occasional frightful exception.
Recently, though, my interest has started piquing again, thanks to good horror films that are also good films, like Cabin in the Woods and The Conjuring. These quality outings are restoring my faith in the genre, so I decided to take the plunge and check out an independent horror film I had never heard of.
Facts of the Case
Michael Danube (Peter Cilella, Karma Calling) receives a video of Chris Daniels (Vinny Curran, Machine Head) tripping in the woods on a weapons-grade meth binge. The husband and expectant father visits his old friend with the hopes of persuading the junkie to check into rehab. Chris, squatting in an abandoned cabin, refuses to go. Michael drops him with a taser, shackles him to a pipe, and tells Chris that the two of them will spend the next week riding out the forced detox.
When Michael makes his daily ventures to the general store or somewhere where his cell phone will work so he can call home, he encounters some odd characters, including Chris' drug connections, some tough-looking Native Americans, and a trio of religious cult members. As the days pass, though, the oddest goings-on are the appearances of strange items on their doorstep (and in other places). These items, including creepy photographs, a mysterious film reel, and haunting audio recordings, seem to tell partial stories about others who were there before them. It's when the A/V souvenirs include current recordings of Michael and Chris that things get very creepy.
Resolution is a very good film, but reviewing it presents a challenge.
I'm always careful to avoid mentioning spoilers. In fact, it's rare that I'll even intentionally discuss a spoiler for fear that, even with the prerequisite "spoiler alert" in boldface, someone might miss the warning and read the spoiler and have an experience ruined. This challenge doubles with Resolution; not only is there an ending that you don't want to know about in advance, giving away certain details of the film's execution will take away from the excellent viewing experience, and I don't want to do that to you.
What I can tell you is that writer/co-director Justin Benson (Racing Stripes) and his directing partner Aaron Moorhead (Absentia) start with a familiar horror premise: two people are in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. From there, though, Resolution smartly diverts from horror film norms.
First, they're not really stuck. Both are there voluntarily, and since they have a perfectly functional car, they can leave whenever they want (other than the shackles, I know, but even they can be removed by one of the good guys). Next, the better part of the film takes place in the daytime. That cabin they're in? It isn't creepy at all, it's just kind of dilapidated—it even has power.
The film has no score, and the silence is quite effective. There is very little blood. There is only one smash-cut to a startling image. And it still works.
There is a hook, of course, but you'll need to find that on your own. Once you do, the way you feel about what you watched until that point will change for the better, and you will double-down on your investment in what happens next. It's really all so clever, and the payoff at the end is very satisfying.
The acting is key to that, too. The stars of the film don't have a lot of heavy lifting to do, but they still have to be believable, and they are very believable. Particularly impressive is Curran as Chris the junkie. His over-the-top antics when he's full-tilt high are nicely contrasted during his chained, weeklong comedown.
Co-director Moorhead also acts as the film's cinematographer, and his camera work really pops on Resolution (Blu-ray). He's got a nice way with lighting and shadows that is well-showcased by the sharp image transfer. The sound is fantastic, too. Again, the film has no score, so every word, movement, and background noise is completely unobstructed.
There are plenty of extras to go around, starting with three (count 'em) commentary tracks—one with directors Benson and Moorhead; one with cast and crew (Benson, Moorhead, Cilella, Curran, and producer David Lawson; and one with Cilella, Curran, and Carmel, who plays the dog in the movie. Seriously. The track with just the directors is most insightful about the filmmaking process. The track with the crowd of people sounds like a crowd of people chattering throughout the screening of a movie they have already seen (with a lot of crosstalk). The track with the dog has a lot of schtick built around the dog barking.
Other bonus material includes: • A three-minute interview with
directors Benson and Moorhead • Eight "Weird Extras" (the
filmmakers' movie-based comedy bits, ranging in runtime from less than a minute
to about 5 minutes): An "Alternative Lifestyle" trailer (the funniest
of the bunch); How Resolution Will Help You Have Sex; Shane the Missing
Character Featurette; Topless Scene; Extended Scene: Lawyer Call; Alternate
Ending • Two trailers for the film • Six outtakes/unseen
footage: Behind the Scenes; Extended Found Footage: 8mm; Extended Found Footage:
Crazy Chris; Extended Found Footage: Webcam Death; Extended Found Footage: Cult
Members; Outtakes • Film Festival Promos (A collection of comedic
videos promoting the film's screenings at various festivals around the
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are times when the film drags in the first two acts. Understanding that the payoff compensates for those parts doesn't mean you can avoid muddling through them. More than once I found myself saying, "Okay. This is great. I get it now. Can we move forward, please?"
This isn't about rehashing horror clichés, but rather finding new life for old tropes. By being a quality film and doing things that lesser entries in the genre would be afraid to, Resolution has contributed to my renewed faith and interest in horror.
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