“A man imprisons his estranged junkie friend in an isolated cabin in the boonies San Diego to force him through a week of sobriety, but the events of that week are being mysteriously manipulated.” — IMDb
Resolution, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012, was co-directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. It was both of their first feature film, though they would go on to co-direct several more (Spring, The Endless) and have been working together since at least 2010 when they created the short A.M. (which has a similarly vague, eerie feel as Resolution). This film is truly a labor of love from two passionate, longtime filmmakers, and I think you can feel it. They were setting out to make something unique without going the route of either too cliche or too showy, and they succeeded.
A concerned Michael (Peter Cilella) goes to help his drug-addicted friend Chris (Vinny Curran) get sober in the empty shell of a house he’s been squatting in, somewhere in the midst of an Indian reservation. Chris is determined to kill himself with drugs but Michael forces him to detox over the course of a week, all the while being distracted by some very eerie happenings around them…
** SPOILERS! **
I think, above all else, I appreciated this film for its ambiguity and its examination of what a horror movie really is and the components involved. Throughout the movie there are various mentions of different monsters and bits of lore — aliens, ghosts, angels, demons, secret military bases, telekinesis. We see or hear mention of a huge range of potential evil-doers: Indian men who are protective of the reservation land, desperate junkies armed with baseball bats, a possible escaped mental facility patient, government workers or their ever-present satellites, Satanic cults, religious zealots, wronged salesman, belligerent homeless people sleeping in caves, cryptic French researchers. These are, as the researcher himself said, some of the reasons why people go into the boonies to begin with — or why horror movies are made: to explore these themes.
But the entity here, the reason why the stories need to play out, is us… the viewer. This film delightfully breaks the fourth wall but in mostly very subtle ways, besides the one more obvious instance of the recording glitching and both men turning towards us and asking “what the fuck was that?”. It’s brilliant in its breaking down of the various routes it could take — first in theory as Michael tries to figure things out, and then in action as we see the tweakers break in and the Indian men murder them — once again analyzing what we expect, and what is often delivered, in horror movies.
Ultimately, the film isn’t shy with its indie movie stereotypes, which seems to fit in with its deliberate use of tropes: two buddies with their share of childhood memories and drinking stories from their college days (really the only unfortunate conversation between the two of them is exchanging barbs about which “grody” women they slept with), missing researchers, an isolated house in a mysterious and potentially mystical area that just happens to be an Indian reservation. But the intention of it, the intelligence, the acting, and the script in particular, is what makes it solid. It’s funny without being goofy, deep and emotional without being cheesy, and — the last 20 minutes or so in particular — bone-chilling in the way it evokes fear (the photos of them dead appearing on the slide projector, and the video on the laptop sped up to show their demise at the hands of junkies with baseball bats… yikes).
And the ending is just… yes. The main characters have tried to play out what they think the ending of the story is — them, lit by a raging fire, coming to a happy conclusion both in their friendship and in Chris’s addiction — only to be met with the entity — with us — rising up as they beg “can we try it another way?”. We’re left wondering if the entity, the audience, was disapproving of a happy ending — uncharacteristic for a vast majority of horror films — or simply making themselves known. Just… awesome.
MORE MOVIES LIKE THIS, PLEASE. This makes me suuuuper excited to check out their other two collaborations as well as anything else they come up with!
Rating: 8/10 | Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead | Writer: Justin Benson | Cinematography: Aaron Moorhead | Starring: Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Bill Oberst Jr., Zahn McClarnon, Emily Montague