Earlier this year horror fans got a massive treat in the form of Cabin in the Woods, a sly horror/comedy that managed to deconstruct, analyze, and poke fun at the most obvious and beloved horror tropes, cliches, and stereotypes ever conceived. Fortunately all of the clever (dare I say intelligent?) cinematic subtext was coated with a very entertaining exterior story that somehow combined slasher flicks, monster movies, and sci-fi oddities into one tasty little morsel.
The low-budget and slowly satisfying Resolution is also a smart and subversive take on some of the most recognizable themes and ideas found in horror cinema, but while Cabin in the Woods has lots of zing, color, and energy, the amiably odd Resolution simply has one cabin (well, a house), two estranged friends, and a bunch of weird people and situations that seem oddly familiar, but also just random enough to keep the viewer off-balance. And make no mistake: Resolution is not a simple indie horror flick that requests/requires only a portion of your attention span; those who play close attention and exhibit some patience with this movie are the ones who’ll get the most out of it.
The story is pretty simple: Chris (Vinny Curran) is a junkie who is living alone in an isolated house. Mike (Peter Cilella) is an old but estranged friend who drops in to beg Chris to give up the crack pipe. Chris, predictably, refuses to go to rehab, and then Mike, not so predictably shackles his crack-craving pal to the wall with a pair of handcuffs. This is Mike’s idea of a “tough love” intervention, and it’s a novel enough hook to get our two heroes (?) snared in one location.
In a much more conventional horror movie, this is when the monsters or the slashers or the zombies would show up, but to their credit, filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have a lot more in mind that just another display of wisecracks, hallway wanderings, and predicable horror beats. Once they’ve laid down their premise and set up their two main characters, the filmmakers do all they can to keep genre fans on their toes: strange little clues start popping up; odd religious folks are hanging out by the river; the owner of the house stops by to deliver an ultimatum and a few creepy hints about the history of the area; one freaky stranger just bangs on the window in the middle of the night. For a film that begins in such a simple, linear fashion, Resolution manages to toss a lot of endearingly weird ideas into its 90-minute frame. Suffice to say that Resolution feels a bit like a horror version of the sci-fi festival favorite Primer: it starts out slow and basic, but eventually spirals into a legitimate little mind-bender.
Aside from Benson’s dry directorial touch and a clear knowledge of various horror flick tropes and concepts, Resolution is also buoyed by a sincerely strong pair of lead performances. As nice guy Mike, Cilella is smooth and affable, but the actor also offers a vague layer of darkness as the movie plows forward. As the strangely upbeat deadbeat junkie, Vinny Curran is also quite good. He has the clipped comedy timing of a seasoned performer, and he also provides some unexpected warmth in a few key dialogue scenes with his co-star.
Resolution is a strange one indeed. More of a quietly brainy disassembling of horror movies than an actual horror movie -- although it does contain a handful of cleverly creepy moments -- this indie flick clearly comes from some folks who know the genre --and assume that their audience does too. That earns some solid extra credit right there.