Abertoir 2012 Review: Resolution

By Keri O’Shea

Chris (Vinny Curran) is a happy fuck-up. We’ve all known people like him: he gets the most out of life whilst utterly out of his head, living day to day and squat to squat, and seems pretty happy with his lot – when he’s not in the grip of meth psychosis and imagining that the very birds in the sky are out to get him. Thing is, for every happy fuck-up, there’s a ‘concerned friend’, someone who will break off from whatever they’re doing to come and help and make it their mission to turn that person’s life around, regardless of whether that help was solicited or not, In Chris’s case, Michael (Peter Cilella) is that friend. But, when he sees footage of his best friend in an utterly depraved state, he doesn’t call Dr. Phil: he goes round to the shack where Chris is currently living, tazers him and handcuffs him to the pipework. He’s going sober, like it or not. Chris likes it not. This is going to be a long week…for Chris and for Mike, as Mike takes it upon himself to stick around and keep a watchful eye on his childhood buddy.

As Chris chides, pleads, and yells to be given his beloved pipe back, Mike – bored, feeling put upon and missing his wife – starts exploring the boonies where his friend has been living recently. It’s a strange place alright, populated almost exclusively by wackos and addicts who find themselves drawn there, to get high, to look at the stars or to check out some of the local legends. On the property itself, he finds lots of bits and pieces that have been left there by other folk passing through, all of them apparently a bit like Chris: he finds stacks of photos out back, some of them are seemingly of sinister goings-on…and then, he finds an outhouse, filled with archaic VCR equipment which he later finds out was left over from a research group working in the area. Curiosity gets the better of him, and he starts looking through some of the film reels. The evidently ancient footage and stills of unknown people’s stories begin to give way to something even more alarming: recent footage of him and Chris, shot by an unknown cameraman, sometimes from an inexplicably close vantage point. And it seems as though someone wishes them to follow some sort of trail – gradually, they’re following clues, finding more material relating to themselves, and soon, also getting hints of what might be to come.

The first thing I’d like to say about Resolution is this: it’s exceedingly rare for a film to be truly able to combine well-written humour with genuine creep factor. Exceedingly rare, but in abundance here. You could be forgiven for thinking, from the opening footage of Chris absolutely off his head, that this was going to be some sort of buddy horror, Tucker and Dale-style, but that could not be further from the truth. Yes, the jokes here land (not least because of the believable and well-acted relationship between Chris and Mike) but Resolution can turn it around, going from laugh-out-loud to cold shivers without either element feeling tacked-on. There’s a skill in evidence there. Quite often, new movies struggle to do either in any quantity, so it’s a testament to Justin Benson’s writing that this is the case.

I was also genuinely delighted that the movie uses some elements of that sub-genre, that sub-genre where, shall we say, film footage is unearthed (you know the one I mean) without provoking either my wrath or my nausea. And why? Because less is more, and this movie understands that. The use of a few seconds of ‘found footage’ here or there is sufficient to establish a motif which is carried on throughout; and, lest we forget, the idea that is presented here, of someone or something ever-watching the unfortunates in question, is a frightening one. Furthermore, it allows for what has in these post-Cabin in the Woods days as ‘meta’ elements to be woven in, though again, subtly so. Resolution allows us to consider stepping outside the film itself, wondering about what constitutes the movie, who is watching who, and what this sort of storytelling actually means.

It is this clever build-up and meshing of themes which provides the film with its Achilles heel, though. The closing half hour of this movie was almost unbearably tense: it had escalated the on-screen events carefully, and maintained my attention. Reflecting on this, I wonder, could the movie ever have rewarded that level of tension? It’s a make-or-break moment in any story, filmed or otherwise: this observation about storytelling feeds back into the themes present in the movie, too, but as a conventional viewer of a conventional movie for the moment, I do feel I wanted that much more from the conclusion. Also, there’s a final addition to the final reel which needn’t have been put there – it doesn’t unravel what went before it, thankfully, but it was unnecessary all the same.

My overall verdict on Resolution, however, is positive: this is a well-crafted exercise in tension, punctuated by believable, human relationships and razor-sharp humour, with some interesting reworkings of horror tropes along the way. In a sense, the success of the set-up is what must have made ending the movie all that more difficult. Nonetheless, I have no qualms about recommending this interesting indie: if all new movies tried for this level of engagement and initiative, as horror fans we’d all be better off.

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