I love it when a movie surprises me. Any time I watch a film that refuses to be pigeon-holed and insists on zigging when I expect it to zag, it earns a measure of my respect. With that in mind, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to say that Resolution is one of the most surprising movies I've seen in a long time. It is a horror film built around a very human relationship. It's funny, creepy and endlessly creative. It is the thing you should be watching right now instead of sifting through my broken prose aimed at convincing you to do the same.
Still here? Alright, let me try to convey the film's charms while being as vague as possible about its mechanics (you deserve a spoiler-free experience). It's about two friends Mike (Peter Cilella) and Chris (Vinny Curran) who used to be close but drifted apart in the last few years. A lot of that has to do with Chris' crippling meth addiction. When Mike receives a video of Chris on a drug-fueled bender in the woods cursing at nobody and shooting guns at nothing, he sees it as a cry for help. Despite his wife's protests, Mike decides he's going to try talking Chris into going to rehab. In short order, he's at the remote cabin that Chris is currently holed up in. When his rational plea falls on deaf ears, Mike resorts to desperate measures. He tasers Chris and chains him to the cabin wall. The plan is a forced week-long detox at which point Chris might be sober enough to want to do the right thing.
A story where one of the two main characters spends much of his time chained to a wall may not sound all that dynamic or ripe for the sorts of scares that one expects from a horror movie. This is where the brilliance of co-directors Justin Benson (who also wrote it) and Aaron Scott Moorhead (who also shot it) comes in. They fill in the margins of the movie with so many colorful characters and details that this never feels like a static two man show. There are meth heads (Chris' slow-witted but quick to anger pals), surly Native Americans (whose land Chris is illegally squatting on), happy shiny cult members who live by the river and one strange little girl who likes to wake up the guys by tapping on the cabin windows at night. With every character introduction, Mike's task of cleaning up Chris becomes that much more challenging and the sense of dread grows even thicker.
Speaking of dread, Benson and Moorhead's M.O. is heavily reliant on it. This isn't a gory affair chock full of jump scares and villains with signature weapons and catchphrases. The threat here is less overt with the film's central menace finding subtle ways to get under your skin. Benson and Moorhead display complete mastery of their craft here by finding small yet significant details to push to the forefront. A scare tactic that keeps delivering on its promise is the manner in which someone keeps leaving bits of obsolete media for Mike to find. A few strange photographs, an old library book, a pack of projection slides, a VHS tape...all featuring stories and images of different people. The only thing they have in common is that things don't end well for the folks featured in them. When evidence starts to pile up that Mike and Chris may be stuck in a story of their own, the film's title takes on a very pointed meaning.
While Benson and Moorehead modulate the tone and pacing of Resolution with perfection, much of the film's heart and soul is tied up in the performances of Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran. Taken individually they do their characters justice and then some. Cilella is excellent as the calm and collected one who wants to do right by his friend even as waves of weirdness start to crash down upon them. Curran is an absolute firecracker as the uncouth and slightly manic slob whose sharp mind hasn't been completely blunted by drug use. In a strange coincidence, I just watched Curran suffer through an unfortunate bit part in a horror movie that didn't know what to do with him. Resolution makes wonderful use of his talents. Cilella and Curran together are nothing short of magical. We buy their friendship and every little exchange reveals a little more of who they used to be. There is a comfort level between the actors that would be hard to duplicate.
Looking back, I feel like I've already said too much despite my best efforts. That's just the problem with a film like this. It is so smart and unusual that you feel compelled to talk about it. Their attention to detail and command of the material indicates that Benson and Moorehead have a very bright future ahead of them. May I suggest that they invest in some decent shades.
The anamorphic widescreen image accurately conveys the grimy, desolate aesthetic that the filmmakers were going for. The compositions are starkly beautiful (in their own way) with a sort of washed out color palette that freely wallows in the dirt and dust. I did notice banding in a few of the darker shots along with some crushed blacks but I doubt this will bother most folks. This is a perfectly acceptable presentation for the material at hand.
The audio is presented with a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 mixes. I chose to view the film with the 5.1 surround mix and found it to be quite capable. This isn't the sort of audio track that is dominated by an overbearing score (since there really isn't one to speak of) or by insistent aural stabs of jump scares (once again, not that kind of movie). If anything, the track is dominated by the dialogue between the characters with some background noises thrown in to enhance the feeling of complete isolation (hearing nothing is much scarier than hearing too much). With that said, the dialogue was mixed a bit low in a few scenes. This wasn't enough to impact the experience for me but I did have to strain a couple of times to catch what was being said.
For a film possessed of such ingenuity and sly wit, it's reassuring to note that the extras carry the same characteristics in spades. We start with an Interview with the Filmmakers (2:49) where Benson and Moorhead give a brief rundown of the film's plot before going into the DIY spirit guiding the whole enterprise. They talk about wanting to avoid horror clichés while embracing genre tropes. They also give a little bit of detail on how they first met as interns at Ridley Scott's production company.
Next up, we have the aptly named Weird Extras. This collection of promotional materials is supremely dumb (in an endearingly smart way). The "Alternative Lifestyle" Trailer (1:40) resorts to some clever editing to shift the film's focus a bit and make it a decidedly probing drama. A short featurette on How Resolution Will Help You Have Sex (2:04) is a funny bit that walks us through the right way of employing learnings from the film to make a connection with that hottie across the room (favorite line: "make love to this woman using resolution scares"). Shane the missing Character (2:41) is a featurette devoted to a third major character who got unceremoniously chopped from the film. After watching how much he added to the proceedings, I can't imagine why he was left on the editing room floor.
Topless Scene (0:17) gives us the gratuitous nudity that was lacking in the final cut of the film while Extended Scene: Lawyer Call (1:42) shows Mike considering the legal ramifications of what he's done to Chris. Perhaps the most revealing extra here is the Alternate Ending (5:27) which picks up 6 months after the events of the film's climax. I don't want to spoil anything but let's just say that dick trees are involved. Like I said, this is juvenile stuff but when it's presented with such care and affection it only amplifies the worthiness of the source material.
Moving on to less weird extras, we have a pair of Trailers (Teaser and Theatrical) followed by a large selection of Outtakes and Unseen Footage. First, we go Behind the Scenes (22:13) for some rehearsal footage that shows how Peter and Vinny first developed their rapport. There is also a ton of footage that shows the filming process and underlines the DIY aesthetic mentioned earlier. The whole piece has a loose, fun vibe that'll be entertaining to anyone with a healthy sense of humor. Next, we have 3 Extended Found Footage Scenes (0:47, 1:28, 0:45) that give us uncut versions of creepy filmed bits that show up in the movie. This is followed by an Extended Scene with the Cult Members (2:21), two of whom are portrayed by Benson and Moorhead. This section is capped off with a set of Outtakes (11:10) which demonstrate the challenges of acting with buckets and dogs. There is also a ton of ad-libbing (much of it by Curran) which is equal parts filthy and funny.
Film Festival Promos (2:40) give Benson and Moorhead an opportunity to flex more creative muscles as they choose to go with the least boring way of creating promotional entries for film festivals. The DVD release includes one such promo which plays like an entertaining short film in its own right. From comparing with the Blu-ray review, it looks like additional promos were included with that release. I'm not sure if this was an oversight when it came time to produce the DVD or perhaps it was an intentional move to push folks towards the Blu-ray. In any case, you've been warned.
Last but certainly not least, we have 3 Commentaries. The first one is a Directors' Commentary with just Benson and Moorhead. Both of the guys are engaging chatterboxes so this turned out to be a very insightful and entertaining track. They talk about everything from the rehearsal process to the manner in which the script came together to technical aspects regarding how specific shots were planned and executed. The second track is a Cast and Crew Commentary, where Benson and Moorhead are joined by Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran and producer David Lawson. This is a less technical track with greater focus on anecdotes and other silliness from the filming process.
The final track is the Carmel the Dog Commentary where Carmel (the adorable pooch who plays a key role in the film) sits down with Benson and Moorhead to have a heady, philosophical chat about film theory. Okay, so Carmel just barks and whines a bunch while the co-directors put on their film snob hats to draw grandiose parallels to various film movements while making salient points about the film's mythology and intent. All 3 tracks have their own merits and serve slightly different purposes. If you're an aspiring filmmaker, focus on the Directors' Commentary. If you just want to have a good time, check out the Cast and Crew Commentary. If you want to learn more about the film's mythology and love dogs (I can't stress that last part enough), you'll find value in Carmel the Dog's Commentary.
Resolution is an example of what a group of immensely talented people can achieve when they're aligned towards the same goal. Co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead have taken a clever concept and presented it with such efficiency and intelligence that the execution is nothing short of revelatory. Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran bring Benson and Moorhead's vision to life with spot-on performances that are engaging and authentic. This isn't a great movie that succeeds despite what must have been a tiny budget. It's just a great movie…period. Highly Recommended.