Directed by: Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead
Written by: Justin Benson
Featuring: Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Emily Montague, Zahn McClarnon
I have read a lot of online reviews lately bashing indie horror as a whole for being derivative, unimaginative and amateurish. I have been reviewing indie horror films for years, and I have watched my share of knockoffs made by people with no knowledge of the genre and "homages" made by filmmakers who follow the rules of the genre so slavishly that their films end up adding nothing new. Like these other critics, I get sick of it too. But every once in awhile, I come across a great indie horror movie like Resolution, a clever, innovative, unique little film that slowly gets under your skin. Films like Resolution are the reason indie filmmaking exists.
When Michael Danube (Peter Cilella) receives a mysterious email containing a map and a video of his best friend Chris Daniels (Vinny Curran) smoking meth and shooting a gun at imaginary birds, he decides to find his friend and save him. The map leads to a rundown shack in the boonies.
When Chris refuses Michael's help, Michael handcuffs him to a pipe in order to force him to detox; however, things — to put it mildly — soon get weird. When Michael finds a series of old black-and-white photographs depicting a murder, he decides that the pictures tell a story. Michael explores the boonies and discovers more discarded media, a record, a VHS tape, filmstrips, etc. Each piece of media tells a story, and each story has a gruesome ending.
Michael becomes obsessed with the media and the stories they tell, but Chris, lacking Michael's natural curiosity, doesn't believe that the media tells stories and doesn't care. Michael finds clues that lead him to more media, and things get really weird when the media starts to involve him and Chris in the stories.
Resolution is not a straightforward film. The most powerful segments are those that deal philosophically with age-old questions about storytelling. What is a story? Why do we tell stories? Is a story something that exists naturally, or are stories our way of explaining the unknown and arranging the world around us? The film doesn't give us any easy answers. During the post-screening discussion, pretty much everybody in the audience had their own interpretation of the film, including myself. In my estimation, this is the mark of a smart film.
The acting from the principal cast is solid all around. Curran doesn't just play Chris as a man handcuffed to a pipe. Chris wears mental handcuffs as well. He is stuck with the same repetitive thoughts and habits, and unable to look beyond himself at the world around him. Cilella plays Michael as a snob, a man so arrogant that he believes that he has the right to handcuff his friend to a pipe against his will. Although Michael is self righteous, he does many decidedly unrighteous things, such as lie to his wife.
The location also deserves special mention. In fact, if there were an Oscar for best location scout, this film would be a contender. The boonies look strange and foreboding, full of weird structures and overgrown vegetation. They are exactly the kind of place a man like Michael would become obsessed with exploring.
Resolution doesn't have a lot of action and there isn't a lot of blood. After the screening, there were a few audience members who mentioned to me that although they liked Resolution, it didn't seem like a horror film. Actually, it is a horror film, but the horror is cerebral rather than visceral. Resolution deals with the horror that can come from overthinking things, as well as the horror that can come from not thinking at all.