I’ve often thought that one of tests of a film’s quality or staying power is the ‘stick on your ribs’ phenomenon. By that I mean, did the film stay with you? Were you thinking about questions about what all you saw? What they were saying as filmmakers? More often than not, this can happen with less than great films where all you remember is being out and out confused, or, frustrated. So it isn’t all positive.
In recent memory, films like Chris Gorak’s excellent, tense, Right At Your Door (2006) and Robert Parigi’s engaging but frustrating, Love Object (2003) come to mind. In the former, the scary thought of poison from a dirty bomb and its aftermath come front and center and what it really means to be secure. In the latter, the struggle to maintain sanity in the face of perceived stimulus from an inanimate object and its increasing human behaviours. Both films stuck with me, Right At Your Door for being so taught and interesting and forcing the ‘what would I do?’ question to rattle around my head continuously. Love Object stuck with me because the creepy feeling I got from watching this mentally fragile character perceiving a personality from a love doll and the subsequent downward spiral of his grasp on sanity was palpable, tangible. I felt like I had to wash it off me.
The reason I’m going on about all this is I doubt that I’ll shake Resolution for a while after watching it yesterday morning. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s film is remarkable, not in over the top gore or violence or only the plot itself, but in addressing the convention of what we give to a film and what it gives back. If we give ourselves over to caring about a character, we’re more invested in said character. Countless times in film (and especially horror films) superficial lip service is given to character development and instead, most effort is put into the effects or the sets or whatever else. Cardboard cutouts in place of deeper characters and we as audience members react accordingly.
I will not lie: it is often fun to wade through body count movies where the character’s type (jock, nerd etc) could very well just be their name because an actual name wouldn’t really matter. They are fun. I get that. But more often than not, more focus on the characters themselves would elicit a more personal, emotional response. Resolution’s greatest success is busting through that fourth wall and giving the viewer real, honest people who you not only grow to care about, but you grow to know and understand.
The story surrounds two men, Mike and Chris, who grew up together but have taken very different paths. Mike is a graphic designer with a baby on the way and a seemingly stable life. Chris, on the other hand, has made essentially every bad choice one could make and has alienated friends and family in the course of driving headlong into a drug addiction that has ruined his life and surrounded him with terrible people and little hope.
The film opens with a grainy, jittery video of Chris out in the forest somewhere shooting at birds and yelling, smoking meth and generally looking terrible. Mike comes up with a plan to find his friend, stay with him to get him cleaned up and on a path to rehab. Once he finds Chris, however, he almost immediately detains him by chaining him to a pipe in a wall in an effort to limit his mobility and force him to clean out his system. This act and how he does it (armed with a taser, handcuffs and chain) is pretty amazing and sets the tone for the seriousness very early.
After the shock wears off and the process begins, Mike investigates the surroundings and begins to find odd objects (pictures, a ratty book, projection film) that are confusing and strange and seem to suggest darker goings on in the area. Two addict friends of Chris show up looking for a stash and cause worry and stress for Mike’s control of the situation. Worse, three men arrive at the dilapidated home and inform Mike that it is on reservation land and Chris is squatting. After he works a deal to keep them there for a few more days, the clues increase as well as the possible threat of something much more supernatural and sinister going on.
In service to this supremely smart and sharp film, going into great detail about that latter parts would be criminal. What you’re given is enough data to form some idea as to what has happened there (the house, the area), in the past and what is happening now but not walked through it step by step. What is ultimately more important is the relationship between the two men and what it means, to each of them, that they are there now. This is the true triumph of the film – this honest relationship between two real characters facing something dangerous and surreal. What it actually means, what is actually happening – well, that is up for grand debate. Trust me when I say I am still debating it in my head. I think another viewing or two might help to sharp my overall thoughts on the matter but in the meantime, I’m left with the feeling that I may have seen one of my favorite films of the year and it’s only February. It is currently available on VOD via Amazon, iTunes etc.