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Resolution
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by Jay Seaver

"Gets into your head, or at least under your skin."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Resolution" gave me the creeps, and while it's easy to dismiss that as just what horror movies are supposed to do, take a minute to think of how many of the last ten you've seen genuinely did so - and I don't just mean jumping, I mean making you feel nervous. Now, how many of those movies were able to be kind of funny without selling their intent to scare you out? And how many of those were able to even awkwardly subvert recent genre tropes?

Not many, I'll wager. Those are things that often find themselves at cross-purposes, as cleverness requires breaking down what you're watching in a way that run counter to instinctual fear, while humor can counter any momentum the movie has away from the audience's comfort zone. And, to a certain extent, that does happen here on occasion; compared to other movies of its ilk, its movement from an interesting hook to really being scary is a bit slow. But directors Justin Benson (who also writes) and Aaron Moorhead always remember to prioritize being scary over the other stuff.

What is that hook? It involves Michael Danube (Peter Ciella) receiving a video from Chris Daniels (Vinny Curran), his oldest friend, that shows drug addict Chris spiralling further into self-destruction, which spurs Michael to travel out to the sticks to try and get Chris clean - whether he likes it or not. And while Chris is genuinely a mess, he's also living off the grid and it's tough to see how he could have sent Michael an email. Michael shrugs that off, keeping Chris handcuffed to the wall and dealing with whoever comes to the door, whether it be drug dealers Billy (Kurt David Anderson) and Micah (Skyler Meacham) or Charles (Zahn McClarnon), the owner of the house where Chris is squatting (on Native American land, no less) - at least, until more unnerving pictures, stories, and videos start showing up on various media.

It's a nifty set-up that could go a few interesting ways from the very start: What Chris is saying can't be trusted and he's made some enemies, Michael's good intentions are being executed in a pretty draconian way, and the feeling of being watched is ever-present. Benson's script does a few nifty and unexpected things: The obvious thing to do, for example, would be to lock Michael down in the hovel with Chris, but letting him move around gives the filmmakers a chance to naturally (and slowly) dole out information without it seeming artificial. They also make the movie the inverse of the recent glut of found-footage horror as its protagonists are actually finding the footage, sometimes in a way that creates a closed loop.

Perhaps the nicest thing that Resolution has going for it, though, is the chemistry between Ciella and Curran. The history that Michael and Chris have feels real rather than just something we're being told about, and even though we don't ever get any sort of glimpse at how they related when things were good (or at least better), they provide glimpses of that closer friendship even as the characters are at odds. Curran is especially impressive, able to spit a lot of bitter (and very funny) sarcasm at Ciella in almost the same breath as utterly resigned despair. Ciella, meanwhile, gives Michael a low-key confidence that wanders nicely across the line into hubris on occasion, with both of them able to approach fear from different directions and wind up with different tones. The story's got room for a couple of memorable supporting performances, too - Zahn McClarnon is steely and threatening as Charles, seemingly too unabashed in his malevolence to be the the mysterious force threatening Michael and Chris; Bill Oberst Jr., meanwhile, is downright creepy as the guy who may have answers but might also just be an example of where things are leading.

There are a few things that could probably work a bit better - the last act, for example, features characters seeming to make decisions wholly based on what the script needs as opposed to what might actually make sense, and the number of times Michael leaves Chris handcuffed and alone despite a lot of people having it out for him without horrible consequences seems to defy probability. The end has a lot of nice elements, but also walks a very thin line between the fun of a twisty plot and trying not to sell out the vague dread that the movie is built on.

Fun wins out, though, especially the fun of goosebumps on the spine and not knowing just what's going to happen next because the whole situation seems vaguely, unquantifiably off. It's an impressive little horror movie that squeezes a lot of unease out of a few good performances in some dingy locations.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=23563&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/20/12 13:04:40
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.

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USA
  25-Jan-2013
  DVD: 08-Oct-2013

UK
  N/A

Australia
  25-Jan-2013




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