Reviewed by: Michael Pattison

"Resolution is an excellent amalgamation of horror traits that also stands on its own two feet."

Horror, more than any other genre, can be an understandably alluring prospect for first-time filmmakers. With its emphasis upon tone-heavy incident rather than storytelling logic, and with its preference for the irrational rather than real-world plausibility, horror facilitates a kind of basic conceit whose simplicity in narrative terms and practicability in production terms needn’t depend on the budgetary go- ahead of too-fussy funders or studio bigwigs. Precisely because of the relative ease with which filmmakers can embark upon a first feature-length project these days, however, it can be tricky terrain to negotiate: just how many variants of those bedtime chillers can there be?

For Resolution, feature-debutant Justin Benson and Scott Aaron Moorhead (whose sole previous directorial credit is 2010’s A Glaring Emission) have decided to build an entire film out of patchwork elements lifted from previous exemplars, stitching them atop a simple enough tale of long-term friendship tested by a destructive drug addiction. At the film’s start, Michael (Peter Cilella) receives an apparently homemade video from Chris (Vinny Curran), an old school friend whose addiction to crystal meth has destroyed all other relationships. The video comes with a map providing directions to the ramshackle cabin where Chris has been hiding.

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Arriving at this abode, Michael cuffs his friend to a rail with the intention of camping with him through an enforced weeklong stint of cold turkey; with Chris tied up and becoming increasingly agitated by drug withdrawal, Michael explores the local environs while warding off potential intruders, such as the dealers to whom Chris owes money and the makeshift trio of security guards who demand accommodation money. Creaky doors, mysterious objects and strange encounters enliven the trip in ways unplanned.

Some reference points seem obvious: The Wicker Man (protagonist lured to remote backwaters under false pretence); The Blair Witch Project (day-by-night camping trip gone wrong); Kill List (two pals’ slow discovery that all is not what it seems). But there are hints also of more unlikely sources, such as Lost Highway and Hidden (videos containing angle-defying footage of Michael and Chris appear on the cabin’s porch) and Old Joy (an exploration of the present gulf between two old friends).

This might all sound derivative, but then so did The Cabin In The Woods – the film to which Resolution appears as a kind of indie rival. Due both to Moorhead’s script and the chemistry between the two leads, Resolution is an excellent amalgamation of horror traits that also stands on its own two feet (though one of the two protagonists sees out the film with a twisted ankle). Its incremental sense of dread is superbly achieved, not least due to the idyllic backdrop and the self-confidence with which Michael, whose adult life has been in marked contrast to that of Chris, explores its strange huts and caves with a refreshingly blasé attitude towards whatever else might be at work in these dark woods.

Busying his script with a number of allusions to potential villains means that Benson and co-director Moorhead have ideas at their mercy as the film enters its final 20 or so minutes. Some may be put off by the filmmakers’ decision to turn the work into something apparently concerned with its own (de)construction, especially after initial suggestions of a denouement grounded in reality. But there have been enough nods early on in Resolution to suggest that the film’s own texture is the chief nemesis at large; from that moment in the first scene, in fact, when the camera itself seems to be nudged by an unseen force, Benson and Moorhead’s film is a smart hybrid-homage horror whose sustained unease lingers long past its credits.

Reviewed on: 16 Apr 2013
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An attempted intervention at the remote woodland home of a troubled addict reveals unexpected dangers.
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