Resolution, an independent horror film coming out early next year through Tribeca Film, is the type of experimental low budget horror fans have been waiting for. It is so rare to find an intelligent slow burn horror that builds tension through character rather than false scares and cliches.
Resolution refuses to play into any of the cliched shorthand of indie horror. Michael visits his long time friend Chris sin his remote home in the woods. Chris is addicted to hardcore drugs (anything that will get him high) and Michael forces him into an ultimatum: go cold turkey for seven days and decide whether or not to go to rehab. The force comes from the handcuff used to lock Chris to the house so he can’t run off and get high before the week is up.
Resolution only gets stranger from there. Writer/director Justin Benson and director Aaron Moorhead never take the obvious route for a horror film. The horror film distinction is key. From a structural standpoint, it could have easily been a quirky indie drama. It’s not. It is clearly a horror film despite the unusual approach. This is film with no jump scares, nothing obviously lurking in the shadows, and only the bare minimum amount of action needed to move Michael throughout the set.
Instead, the horror comes from dialogue, character development, and the weaving of an odd tapestry of folklore. You have two characters on totally opposite paths forced into close contact with each other. Michael wants his best friend clean so he can help him rebuild his life. Chris just wants to get high because it’s the only thing that makes him happy anymore. The amount of tension built from Chris’ confinement is incredible. The handcuffs could easily feel like a forced device, but the rapport between the characters and fast, rich character development make the reveal shocking and believable.
There is an external mystery that shares focus with Chris’ detox. Someone is leaving recorded media all over the property showing strange things that have happened in the house. Slides, film reels, cassette tapes, books, and records tell twisted stories of previous tenants.
The mystery works to define the focus of the two characters as they interact with the artifacts. Michael, so full of compassion, wants to figure out the mystery behind the items and why they’re being shared now. Chris, so full of self-loathing and desperation, tries to manipulate Michael into thinking he is losing his mind out of guilt for trapping Chris in the house. The external mystery defines the pace of the detox and allows a safe and honest soundboard for Michael and Chris to explore their conflict.
As the artifacts emerge, Michael begins to meet all the different people who live in the community. There’s a pair of drug dealers he went to high school with. There’s a brutal and aggressive man willing to do anything to protect the integrity of the local reservation. There’s a facility full of people who believe in an astronomical religion and the magical forces at play in the land. Each new interaction reveals a new theory about the land and why strange thing could happen.
The more Michael explores the area, the more concerned he becomes with his choice to save Chris. He will see through the treatment no matter what; he just realizes very quickly that anywhere would be better than where they’re trapped.
Resolution succeeds because of beautiful construction and excellent editing. The screenplay is so tight that nothing falls through. Every last concern is resolved throughout the film and no major character is left dangling with nowhere to go. The result is a tight, methodical horror film that knows the story it wants to tell and wraps itself around your brain until credits alone can free you.
Resolution is scheduled to come out in early 2013 on VOD and a limited theatrical release. NYCC had an advanced screening yesterday. The audience was eating up the natural blend of humor and horror shared by the two main actors and really started to lose it when the horror overtook the story in the second half. I strongly recommend checking it out when you get the chance. It’s very Memento or May in its combination of character study and offbeat storytelling. It’s quite refreshing.