Directors: Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
There are two intelligent conversations occurring in the criminally overlooked 2012 horror film Resolution. The most evident is a conversation between the directors and their audience about horror movies. Writer/Co-Director Justin Benson and Co-Director Aaron Moorhead are two artists sharply aware of the history and guiding principles of their chosen genre, as many modern horror directors are. What makes them unique, and in turn what makes their first movie exceptional, is their even-tone and controlled approach, their confidence in their own audience to possess the same level of horror learnedness. Like Cabin in the Woods, which harnessed endless praise the same year for its meta-genre-awareness, Resolution is a film loaded with allusions to other films and horror tropes. But it’s worth noting that when Benson and Moorhead apply these homages and borrowed images (the sacred Native American ground, the creepy cult folk, the troubled young girl scratching on the window in the middle of the night), the application is one of function instead of proud self-amusement. Resolution has higher ambitions than that of just chuckling at a laundry list of cliches, so when other films are recalled, they are recalled as a method of subverting expectation, creating expectation, coloring mood, disorienting the narrative path. In that sense, the shared common horror knowledge of the directors and their audience becomes the actual setting of the story.
Of course, none of this works without the measured effort of the film’s two main performers. Peter Cilella stars as Michael, a photographer from the city who ventures into a secluded geographic area to force his old friend Chris (Vinny Curran) into rehabilitation. After Michael handcuffs Chris to a wall, the majority of their exchanges occur within the cramped walls of the dingy cabin and these exchanges make for some of the most entertaining moments of the movie. Both Cilella and Curran play well off of each other with subtle comedic timing, which creates an organic under-current of humor in the first two acts and transitions to a sense of believable compassion when the two face danger together in the third act. However, it is on their own that the two actors establish the depth of the film. Cilella, with quiet observation and minimal expression instills a sense of uncertainty in Chris, creating doubt toward his character’s motivations. Suddenly, the selflessness of the film’s central act of friendship is diluted. Curran occupies the role of the junkie with jarring precision. Chris is avoidant of his mistakes and the impending doom, his ignorance is conveniently situated, his stupid a cover for selfishness.
It is the human element that creates Resolution‘s second intelligent conversation.
It’s been said countless times, but it’s worth repeating: More often than not, the most terrifying horror films are quietly built atop much simpler, real life, human fears. Resolution‘s fundamental human fear is perhaps the most basic I’ve ever seen at the center of horror. Resolution takes root in that lingering doubt that exists to some degree in every human, the notion that we didn’t do things right, that we made the wrong choices, that we have subconsciously ignored the ways in which we have hurt the ones we loved to get what we want. Moreover, it leans on the possibility that there wasn’t a right way to do things to begin with, that we were destined to mess up, and yet still, there may have been some force watching and judging the entire time, and someday, we may wake up with the photographic evidence placed on our chest.
In the end, Resolution is a horror movie that dares intelligence uncommon to the genre and it succeeds by trusting its audience to understand without lecture.