Sunday, January 12, 2014

RESOLUTION: The End is Near (But It's Not the One You're Expecting)

Resolution (2012)
Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Morehead
Seen via: Netflix Instant
Rating: 6.5 / 10

Mike Danube receives a video showing his friend Chris out of his mind on drugs, wandering the countryside, firing guns, and rambling incoherently. Mike decides to save Chris by driving to his remote cabin and handcuffing him to the wall. He'll watch over Chris throughout the detox that follows, making sure he stays hydrated, well fed, and avoids any self harm. What could go wrong?

Knowing this is a horror film, you're probably thinking about where the film will take this premise in the end. Horror stories tend to be about endings, and we generally focus on the end when we think about them - whether it's the end of the characters' lives, the revelation of the monster that's been hiding in the shadows, or even just how the chaos will play out. Resolution is aware of this, and pits our expectations against those of the characters.

For all that happens during Resolution, it's primarily a story of two friends who have let their relationship lapse. Chris's ideal life is one where he kills himself with substance abuse. Despite his devotion to his family and his high-profile job, Mike feels some obligation to Chris. The two used to be good friends and life has seen them grow apart. The chemistry between the two (played by Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran) is good, and even surprisingly heartfelt. The film also frequently lapses into comedy, which diffuses what would otherwise be a crushing week of detox. The levity that Chris brings to the film is needed in the face of Mike's occasionally overbearing self-righteousness, although it might come just a little too frequently.

But I haven't even mentioned the weird goings-on that seem determined to sabotage Chris's recovery. Something strange is happening in the old cabin, maybe due to the fact that it was built on an Indian burial ground... Sort of groan-worthy at this point, I know, because that's one trope that needs to die. Resolution redeems itself to some degree by drawing on the myth of the shape-shifting skinwalker (or something analogous) to introduce some ambiguity to the story. It's never quite clear what happened on the site of the cabin, or whether Mike and Chris are being warned by all the old relics that keep appearing. Mike begins to piece together the tale of what happened in the past as he encounters the current inhabitants of the region, who vary from cult members to drug dealers to the last member of a failed anthropological research team. Some of the supernatural activity is genuinely creepy, primarily Mike's investigation into the missing researchers. Some falls a little flat. In the end though, these are really just distractions from the fact that the duo is seemingly being manipulated by something sinister.

If you're paying attention, you'll notice a bit of metafiction begin to creep into the plot relatively early. While Mike and Chris have been fighting over the ending to the story of their friendship, it appears that something else has a different end in mind. With all the various creeps and haunts circling this far-flung locale, it might seem like the film is going for another Cabin in the Woods-esque unified theory of horror, but the true ending isn't quite as explicitly outlined. (Even if the final shots seem to resonate along some of the same frequencies.) Resolution plays with the notion of what we expect in horror films, and ends up both nodding and pointing a finger in the direction of the viewer.

The grab-bag approach feels somewhat muddled here though, and isn't quite integrated into the interactions between the characters. Still, the story of two friends reuniting amidst a supernatural landscape is more than enough to carry the story. If you're looking for a traditional horror film, you'll be probably be disappointed, and if Resolution suffers from a couple too many ideas, isn't that better than not enough? I had fun with it overall, and despite its flaws, was happy that it kept me guessing.

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