If there was one indie horror thriller that had the festival circuit buzzing last year, it would have to be Resolution, and we recently had the opportunity to chat with co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead as well as producer David Lawson and stars Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran.
In Resolution (review here) Michael (Cilella) is committed to getting his best friend Chris (Curran) to sober up and get his life back on track. But what begins as an attempt to save his friend’s life quickly takes an unexpected turn as the two friends confront personal demons, the consequences of past actions, and forces beyond their control.
The film is an ably conceptualized mix of horror and comedy that has many hopeful horror fans anxiously waiting to catch its VOD release on January 23rd from Tribeca Film and in select theaters beginning January 25th. Just like the film itself, our interview was not by any means conventional, but it was full of inside jokes, laughs and, more importantly, many passionate discussions about the genre. The cast and crew also address their experiences on set and the comparisons to similar ‘cabin in the woods’ thrillers, and they even provide some answers to a few of many questions viewers will have after the end credits roll.
When asked how the film came to be, it was obvious how ambitious the filmmakers were about it and how they were determined to do something that hasn’t been seen before. Writer/director Justin Benson took the time to reveal why he made the risky decision of making his first full-length feature a slow-burning thriller rather than taking the obvious route of delivering a low-budget slasher instead.
“I did set out to write a script that I thought would be scary, and I think that stories are far scarier when you really care about the characters because you really want them to make it through the film. If you can make the relationships feel natural and if you’re bringing something new to the relationship dynamic in a story, I knew that would work way better than using stock characters that get killed off after two minutes,” Benson stated.
Having all worked together on a low-budget beer commercial before Resolution, the filmmakers also addressed why they decided to co-direct the feature.
“Yeah, it’s really not quantifiable. We’re not identical people but we share tastes and that really helps a lot, and we both have definitely benefited from working side by side,” Moorhead stated.
“When Aaron [Moorhead] and I work together, it’s like magic. It just works. I couldn’t exactly tell you why. It took six months to write the script, then Aaron and I went off to film the stories-within-the stories over a couple of months on weekends, and principal photography took seventeen days. We also had three months rehearsal with the actors,” Benson explained.
Their hard work most definitely paid off as viewers at film circuits from around the world have been reacting to the innovative scare tactics displayed in the film, and the directors take much pride in this achievement.
“We’ve had a lot of fun touring this film, especially in Canada. Toronto has really cool fans. A lot of people were scared at the Toronto After Dark screening. Also, we saw this still shot of this girl from one of our screenings that basically looked like a Paranormal Activity ad from Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. Also, there a was girl that came out of the theatre literally shaking in Paris,” Moorhead stated.
Considering the fact the thriller relies heavily on the stand-out performances of lead actors Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran as the unlucky and relatable protagonists for the entirety of the film, we asked the actors about what they had thought of the script and how they were able to play off each other as well as they did.
“I loved the script, and I think I read a pretty early draft because we were talking about it because as Justin was writing and raising money, he was telling me that he wanted to do a feature with Vinny [Curran] and I after we all did a beer commercial together. I definitely had questions, especially with the early drafts because the film and most importantly the ending do pose a lot of questions. Although I knew immediately that after reading it, I was a 100 percent on board,” Cilella shared.
“It’s hard to say because I was so on board before I read it. [laughs] The first couple of times I read the script, I was in bed with my girlfriend Leslie and I would make her read Pete’s [Cilella] lines, and we both thought it was so great. It was a different approach for me because it was such a great opportunity that I haven’t had before. I just couldn’t believe that they let me do this!” Curran exclaimed.
The crew also had nothing but good things to say about Resolution‘s stars:
“The performances from Vinny and Peter complement each other, and I think that is one thing audiences and reviewers can also agree on,” Benson said.
“You don’t get those type of performances in horror films because people generally don’t care. The people who make those films don’t spend enough time to develop the characters. It’s all ‘let’s get to the blood and boobs!’ And we don’t have any of those–not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just wasn’t this movie. [laughs],” Lawson admitted.
One of the many reasons why Resolution has been so talked about in the past year between audience members and film critics is that remarkably almost everybody has a different theory about the film and what themes the film is trying to convey.
We decided to inquire about the underlining theme of addiction that is throughout the film and if it is meant to take aim at the viewers’ addiction of watching horror films as well. The filmmakers and cast candidly admitted what the intentions and the true themes of the film are.
“No, addiction really wasn’t the main focus of the film. In fact, the whole drug addiction thing was entirely a plot device to structure the movie and the character of Chris [played by Vinny Curran] as an unreliable narrator. The mystery at hand in the movie really involves Chris. All of those sketches behind him during the movie were drawings he did when he was in an altered state, so he has had glimpses of what the mystery really is, even if he can’t remember all of it. However, because he is a drug addict, he is an unreliable person on anything and that is why I made his character that way. But I will say that with the central mystery of the movie, there is a very strong relationship to the audience. Because that ‘central mystery’ is doing a lot of the things that an audience would do,” Benson admitted.
“For me, at least when I read it, it was about control. There are different levels of control in your life. Some people try to control themselves and they try to control others. They’re controlled by substances, and the central mystery at the end is so manipulating and controlling. I felt like it was such a strong theme everyone could relate to because we all deal with control in so many ways whether your life is spinning out of control or you’re trying to control it too much. I don’t think I’m like Michael, but there are definitely parts of Michael in me,” Cilella stated.
“I agree with Pete. The fact that drugs controlled my character allowed me so much freedom. I was able to deliver my lines any way that came out of me. I didn’t have to validate anything I had to say or any approach I took to say a line. It was very liberating as an actor,” Curran said.
*NOTE: The cast and crew went on and revealed more about the mystery and twist ending at hand; however, we promised to keep it off the record to prevent any unnecessary spoilers that would ruin specific plot points. (Trust us; you will thank us for not posting it after watching the film.)
Resolution has been compared to the recent sleeper hit The Cabin in the Woods. We asked the filmmakers what they thought of the similarities and inevitable comparisons to their feature.
“I understand why people are comparing them. There are a lot of things in Resolution that involve indie horror tropes as misdirection and red herrings. In a way, we’re kind of deconstructing indie thrillers. ‘Cabin in the Woods’ is more about deconstructing mainstream horror films. The cool thing is that when people compare them, they acknowledge that they are very different movies. Although, not to be biased, Vinny and Pete’s performances in [Resolution] are better than any of the performances in [CITW],” Benson said.
Fans of the film will also be pleased that there is more to look forward to for the DVD release:
“We have a few extended scenes and even an alternate ending. We have extended cuts in the DVD. Our alternate ending completely destroys our movie. [laughs] However, it should be stated explicitly though that our alternate ending is entirely a joke. It takes place six months later,” Benson revealed.
Lastly, those wondering if this indie horror dream team will collaborate again will be happy to know about the crew’s upcoming projects.
“Aaron and I have three projects we’re currently working on, and they’re all similar to Resolution. They all have some high-concept genre element you haven’t seen before. We’re making new monsters. We’re not telling stories with zombies or vampires. Also, like Resolution, they all feature a lot of dark humor, and one of the upcoming projects was specifically written for Vinny and Pete. So, we’re really hoping that one goes through first,” shared Benson.
Thanks to the cast and crew of Resolution for taking the time to chat with us, and I encourage all of our readers to catch this film as soon as you can!
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