Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Distributed by New Video Group
One of the most frustrating things about some indie filmmakers is the unwillingness on their part to take advantage of the freedom and lack of studio-applied shackles and create something new. Now, hear me out, I love indie films (especially of the horrific variety), and often prefer those films to bigger budgeted studio releases. However, it’s impossible not to notice the glut of unimaginative films rehashing wide release tales at a fraction of their cost, free from any unique ideas or voices that might set them apart from their more expensive brethren. What’s the point, really?
Fortunately, a film like Resolution comes along every so often. Smart, scary, funny, and quite original, Resolution serves up a tale that this writer honestly can’t recall seeing before – treating us to a story of friendship and forgiveness that delves into the Fantastique, and ultimately becomes a rumination on the nature of storytelling and audience expectations. And all of this is supported by two of the best performances I’ll see this year, given by actors you’ve never heard of (yet).
Dropping us straight away into its delicate mix of comedy and madness, Resolution opens with Mike Danube (Cilella), a husband and expectant father watching an e-mailed video of his estranged best friend Chris (Curran) making of ass of himself by goofing around, doing meth, and firing off guns while exhibiting signs of an emotional breakdown. Against his wife’s better judgment, Mike packs up and uses the map which accompanied the video to track his former pal down, all in the hopes that he can get him to kick his drug habit and get professional help. Mike finds Chris squatting in an abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere, staying perpetually tweaked and firing guns at invisible birds he insists are flying all about. After failing to convince Chris to go to rehab, Mike does the only thing he can think of to save his friend’s life: he knocks him down with a taser and handcuffs him to a pipe – the plan being to take care of his friend while forcing him to kick his habit over the course of the next seven days.
Before you’re convinced that the film is simply an indie drama about friendship and drug use, rest assured that this flick does eventually take a dark turn. In addition to various threats of the relatively normal variety rearing their heads (Chris’ violent tweaker friends wanting to know where their buddy is, a group of intimidating and perturbed Native Americans who happen to own the land Chris has been living on rent-free), a strange number of occurrences begin to haunt the two during their stay. As Chris dries out, Mike takes the occasional excursion into the surrounding lands, frequently finding various types of media that hold what he refers to “stories” – strange tales featuring characters meeting awful fates, all captured in journals, or on slides, vinyl records, and even film strips. These stories even make their way to the cabin’s door, left by someone intent on Mike and Chris viewing and digesting these tales with downbeat endings. Things become stranger still when the artifacts left behind reveal footage of Mike and Chris taken from impossible angles, leading the two to realize that they may be at the mercy of a force that views them as merely another story, one which needs its own horrible resolution…
With its great cast, unique concept, and its sharply written script, Resolution is one of the very best films I’ve seen this year. The movie is undeniably “indie” without ever feeling cheap, artistic without being eye-rollingly pretentious, and manages to juggle its varying tones without ever betraying its bizarre story. It’s a testament to the abilities of directors Justin Benson (who also scripted) and Aaron Moorhead that they can wrestle drama, comedy, and horror into their film while making it seem effortless, all while tackling their rather strange and original tale. And, for the record, I can’t quite get on board with the comparisons that have been drawn between this film and Cabin in the Woods. Certainly, there are similarities in setting and theme, but they end there so far as this viewer is concerned. It’s also worth noting that Resolution is a damn good looking film, well shot with a few neat, subtle effects that will make more sense once the film’s finale has rolled (multiple viewings are recommended to fully appreciate some of the movie’s finer details).
And then, the actors. Cilella does a great job of making the audience sympathize with his character from the very beginning, even as Mike exhibits some poor decision making throughout. Curran is equally great, giving Chris an effortlessly likable quality even as his mood shifts wildly from one moment to the next. He has the showier role here, as Chris uses quips and his gregariousness as both a shield and a weapon, and seems to have a blast with it – all while keeping his character fully believable and human. Better than the individual performances is the chemistry between the two leads. There isn’t a single moment that I didn’t buy that these two (wildly different) men were old friends. For all of the crazier stuff that happens in the film, Cilella and Curran give the movie its heart, which for this writer’s money was the key in making it all so successful. And, it’s also worth noting that indie horror mainstay Bill Oberst Jr. pops in for a brief if effective cameo.
New Video Group’s Blu-ray release is pretty fantastic, sporting a great image and sound, along with loads of cool and crazy bonus features which make Resolution one of this year’s more interesting releases in terms of supplemental material. First up, the disc treats us to two audio commentaries (one with directors Benson and Moorhead, the other featuring the directing duo alongside Cilella and Curran). Each track is pretty fun, and well worth a listen for those who dig the film. There is also a brief interview with the filmmakers, the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers, and a collection of outtakes comprised of behind the scenes footage, longer looks at the found footage material featured in the film, and a fun gag reel. In addition, there are a number of clever promotional videos the directors filmed for each of their festival appearances. And then…
There is a third commentary track, featuring “Carmel the Dog” – the pooch featured in the film. The track features Benson and Moorhead having a deep conversation on the making and meanings behind the film…with Carmel. The dog. It’s…interesting, and wow do they commit to the concept (”Woof!” ”Hmm. That’s an interesting point…” ”Woof!”). It’s a funny gag, to a point. But, after a while, the joke gets old and wears out its welcome. Still, I applaud the two for coming up with such a strange feature. Speaking of which –
There is an additional set of bonus features under the label “Weird Extras”. And yikes, were they not kidding. Featured here are: an “alternative lifestyle” trailer (which recuts footage from the film to make it look like a romance); “How Resolution Will Help You to Have Sex”, a pretty hilarious bit featuring the actors and directors explaining how the film can improve one’s love life; “Shane the Missing Character”, a featurette which takes a look at a third lead character that was cut from the film (not really – it’s a gag); “Topless Scene”, which is…well, you’ll see; a deleted scene featuring Mike consulting with his attorney concerning the legal ramifications of his kidnapping of Chris; and an alternate ending which tacks on an additional five minutes to the tail of the film, answering all questions and wrapping things up in a neat bow (it’s intentionally awful, and hilarious as a result). Benson, Moorhead, and Co. are clearly a set of strange individuals with a quirky sense of humor, and more power to them for it.
Is Resolution a film for everyone? No. Oh, no. And that’s fine. Some people will likely find it overly talky, not horrific enough, or just plain hate the ambiguous ending (which pays off the film thematically, if not narratively). And I get that. But folks, if you’ve ever found that this reviewer’s taste in flicks resembles your own, do yourselves a favor – buy this flick ASAP. Films like this are all too rare, and should be appreciated when they find their way onto our doorsteps or into our hands.
– “Alternative Lifestyle” Trailer
– How Resolution Will Help You To Have Sex
– Shane the Missing Character featurette
– Topless Scene
– Extended Scene: Lawyer Call
– Alternate Ending
4 1/2 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5