Studio: Tribeca Film
Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Writer: Justin Benson
Producer: Justin Benson, David Lawson
Stars: Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Zahn McClarnon, Bill Oberst Jr.
To save him from drug addiction, a man chains his friend inside a remote cabin for seven days that haunt both men in strange ways.
Should “Resolution” find the wide audience that it deserves, it has the potential to end friendships, doom marriages, and lead to fistfights in the parking lot after a screening. That is a hyperbolic overstatement, but the fact remains that “Resolution” is a polarizing film. It is the type of viewing experience where those who fall in love with it will pass off critics with a harumph as people who just did not “get it.” And haters will point at the open-ended interpretation as unsatisfying and label the storytelling style as unappealing.
Chris is a junkie. After receiving an emailed video of Chris’ latest bizarre antics and a map to his remote location, his best friend Michael decides that he has had enough. Michael confronts Chris at a rundown cabin in the woods and begs one last time for Chris to enter rehab. Chris refuses. So Michael does what any desperate friend would do in the situation. He subdues Chris with a stun gun and handcuffs him to a pipe. In seven days, Michael will give Chris the key to the lock and the freedom to go whichever way he chooses. Until then, Michael is going to force Chris to stay clean through imprisonment.
That description along with the poster art of a bloody wrist chained in a shack give the false impression that “Resolution” may be a torture horror clone. The only torture that goes on is psychological, and it is not induced by withdrawal symptoms. Nor does it come in the form of an intervention between a drug abuser and his former friend. “Resolution” is a cerebral horror film that defies explanation without introducing spoilers. Michael plans to be alongside Chris for his week of captivity. What happens next challenges both of them to question reality, as well as their own sanity. The week of cold turkey is only a jumpstart for the real story.
Vinny Curran is sensational as Chris. He fits the classic junkie stereotype. Having lied, cheated, and stolen his way straight into the gutter, Chris is a dead man walking whose every friend has written him off as a lost cause. But Vinny Curran is so good at giving Chris a pitiful personality that it is easy to be onboard with Michael’s last ditch effort to save his former friend’s life. Chris’ demeanor, and his dialogue, is entertaining. He comes across not as a drug-fried d-bag, but as a likeable guy who was once the life of the party and can still be remembered for being funny as well as fun to be around.
The entire film is well cast. Peter Cilella has the right tone as Michael. Although Michael is a more subdued family man, he is not so grounded that he cannot be seen as having once been a troublemaker alongside Chris in his wilder days. Michael’s yin counterbalances Chris’ yang. Bill Oberst Jr., familiar to many as “The Facebook Stalker” in the brilliant social media app “Take This Lollipop,” finds a similar balance in his brief role. He has an edge of creepy to accent a welcoming vibe that makes for a suitably unsettling presence.
And unsettling is something that “Resolution” has the ability to do very well. The script is structured so that the story’s final destination is never in full view. And the path it takes there continually fascinates like an almost maddening dangling carrot. The movie unfolds in such a way that waiting for clues and answers to be revealed is not a chore. The more that the world around this cabin is explored, the more captivating the movie becomes.
Salesmen, UFO cult members, Native American tribesmen, a stray dog, and angry drug dealers visit the premises. Strange photographs, records, journals, and film reels reveal tragic stories of past travelers to the area. So many seemingly unrelated elements come and go until everything adds up to a finale that ties everything together in a most unusual way.
“Resolution” is so confident in what it creates onscreen that the visuals are not artificially enhanced by a soundtrack. Although the cabin is situated in a real location and is populated by real personalities, albeit eccentric, the environment is uniquely strange on its own. Each time Michael leaves Chris alone in the cabin, whether to buy groceries or to check in with his wife, there is a disturbing feeling that each of them is unsafe. Threats seem likely from any direction and there is a constant unease about what Michael will discover next or what might be waiting when he returns to the cabin.
The film is shot with a dose of a documentary vibe. Shots that do not involve dialogue are rarely longer than they need to be. “In between” scenes have a tendency to pack a lot of information into the frame and then move along quickly. There are some pacing stumbles that interrupt the flow about two-thirds of the way through. The mystery stops progressing for a while as Michael and Chris return to sorting out the drug addiction during extended conversations. And there is too much of a good thing as Chris’ behavior borders on overexposed. Those without an affinity for these personalities will have a tough time sticking it out.
As to whether or not the film is scary, or effective as a horror film, it comes down to personal tastes. “Resolution” is not about jump scares or gory deaths. The film intends to affect on a mental level through uncomfortable moods and feelings of anxiety. Anyone unwilling or unable to invest in this atmosphere will feel none of the above. Those prepared for a psychological thriller with a compelling mystery, on the other hand, will feel “Resolution” in a state that can certainly be defined as horror.
“Resolution” will work its magic on many. To others, the narrative technique and arthouse feel just will not be appealing. But it is unpredictable, intelligent, unique, and immensely entertaining. Love it or hate it, “Resolution” is an astonishing and original independent movie that deserves to be seen and deserves to be talked about.
Review Score: 85