BIFF Film Review: Resolution

   The problem with too much of today's horror cinema is that, for the most part, it is typically not frightening in the slightest. Tension, bleakness of mood and the uncanny have all been replaced with movies in which cheap jolts have become the order of the day. Film-makers have decided that, rather than attempt to unsettle their viewers with unsettling auras and slow-building unease, all that is necessary is the occasional sharp stab of a staccato sforzando on the soundtrack to jolt the viewers in biological reaction to a sudden burst of sound. It is because of this that American cinema has, with one or two exceptions aside, failed to produce any genuinely worrying films in nearly a generation (and why the Asian horror cinema market has grown exponentially over the last few years).

   With Eli Roth's "gore for gore's sake" formula, Rob Zombie making a career of creating purposefully bad movies, and the appropriation of supernatural beings by the teen romance market, there's a real gap in the industry for an innovative young film-maker to arrive and give the genre the shot in the arm that is clearly needed. Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, the co-directors of Resolution may constitute such men if the hype is to be believed from Tribeca film festival.

   The tale stars an every-man, Michael, who receives a video of his best friend Chris, high on drugs in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Michael instantly drives out to confront his friend and, upon hearing he will not quit his habit, takes matters into his own hands, chaining Chris to a pipe to force him through cold turkey. It is from here that things take a turn for the worst and, ominously, the unexplainable; it soon transpires that no one is able to figure out the origin of the video that kick-started the sequence of events nor, for that matter, who is trying to manipulate the duo or why. As local drug dealers, native Americans and a ghostly apparition all begin to visit the cabin, tension mounts and the friendship between our protagonists begins to fray at the seams.

   Prior to watching the feature I had heard nothing but great things about the film and how it was potentially the saviour of American horror. I have to disagree with this entirely; not because this is anything less than a stunning joy of a movie, which it certainly is, but rather because Resolution simply isn't a horror. In fact, it's rather lovely.

   On paper, the premise hints very much that Resolution belongs to the cinema of fear and, indeed, throughout the film tension and unease is always threatened (and occasionally realised); who are the people filming our heroes and what do they want? However, the real heart of the movie lies in two distinctly different subject and narrative matters.

   First and foremost it is a celebration of stories - why humans need them and how they shape our societies and who we are as individuals; they make sense of the world around us and show us our place. Resolution shows us how tales have been transmitted throughout time and cave paintings, record players, videos, CDs, webcams and more all play a part in the film - although the mediums change, they're all just used to transmit our tales. For a movie based in horror, it's a rather tender tribute. Resolution recalls some of the more absurd set-ups and set pieces of recent genre films and lightly prods at some of their excesses (the cabin in the woods here is set, believe it or not, on an Indian burial ground), although this seems good-natured, for the most part, rather than as a piece of cynical mockery. It takes the audience's pre-existing knowledge of the tropes and uses it to gently tease out fear and, through subversion, comedy at various points; it's a clever ploy.

   Secondly, and again somewhat peculiarly for movies based around this genre, Resolution is a story of friendship.The two leads have a real tender affection for each other which, one astute member of the audience noted, wasn't at all dissimilar to one of the more definitive on-screen bromances of our time - Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (particularly in their View Askew guises). It's a compelling look at two best friends separated by the different directions which life has tugged them in, held together by the inseparable bond of shared youth despite how different they have grown up to be.

   Resolution is not a film I'd necessarily say was "the future of horror" - it's simply a wonderful example of storytelling at its most pure and sets a high standard for character realisation which more movies, regardless of their genre, should aspire to.

* This film was screened as part of Bradford International Film Festival


  1. Thanks so much for checking it out on the big screen and writing such a thoughtful review!

    Reply Delete
    1. Thanks very kindly Mr Benson - I appreciate you making such a thoughtful film!


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