Collins’ Crypt: The Horror Genre Needs More RESOLUTION

A smart, original horror film that more than holds up on repeat viewing.

Besides the obvious, a big drawback about watching and reviewing a horror movie every day is that I occasionally see a movie that I'd like to watch again before putting my thoughts out there for folks much smarter than me to read. Obviously if it's a rented DVD I can just put it on again (like I did for Sauna, the first movie in nearly 20 years I watched twice in a row), but at a festival I'm sort of screwed. Who knows if it will ever even see the light of day, let alone find its away back onto my radar? I've seen films at Screamfest three or four years ago that still haven't found US release (for many of them, once was more than enough, but that's another story), as there's no guarantee that any of them will be picked up for distribution.

In a way it's kind of sad that I don't run into this issue more often; I'm the first to admit that I'm not the smartest guy in the world, and there have been a couple of occasions where I take movies at face value and miss their deeper meanings and metaphors, only to read a pal's review later and feel dumb for not having caught it. But most of what I see, sadly, doesn't require much in the way of analysis, nor would a second viewing make much of a difference - I'm sure there's nothing more to Puppet Master X or Children of the Corn: Revelation than what I understood the first time around.

Thus I jumped at the chance to see Resolution again, because it is one of those films that benefits from a second viewing, and if I have the time I will go for a third. For starters, it's just a great film, and thus deserves a second look just to appreciate that "face value" stuff, like the terrific chemistry between the two leads Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran, as well as the dialogue that writer Justin Benson (who co-directed with Aaron Moorhead) gave them. Indeed, at Screamfest, some audience members were sure a lot of their dialogue was improvised, because it had that natural feel that often comes off as incredibly forced and awkward when scripted. But both actors assured us that they would love to take credit for some of the lines, however they were all said as they were written on the page.

And it's an original one, which is even better. On a basic level it's about an intervention; Chris (Curran) is a meth addict and Michael (Cilella) is his best friend that wants him to get help. After trying (again) to get him to go to rehab, Michael chains Chris up in the decrepit little house that he's "renting" (spoiler of sorts - he's actually squatting), and vows to keep him there for a week to get him off the drug cold turkey. However, Michael gets pretty bored sitting around the cabin, so he starts to explore the area, which produces all sorts of strange occurrences and even stranger people, like the French guy (Bill Oberst, Jr) who lives in a Winnebago and smokes red marijuana. And the three cult members who are hanging out by the river waiting for "the celestial Messiah to land his vessel." And the patient from the nearby mental institute who is allowed to roam around at night and tap on their windows. He also finds several pieces of media: tapes, books, audio recordings, film... each one with a "story" that always has a bad ending. Add in the imposing owners of the house and a pair of methheads that Chris robbed, and you have a narrative where any one of these elements could be the focus of an entire movie, and the beauty of the film is how they all seem to "fit" into a 90 minute story that, if you could boil it down to one thing, is mainly about the effects of negative energy.

Needless to say, it's a tough one to pin down. There's not a lot of horror violence, and there are no monsters or anything to help us place it into one particular sub-genre. But it is undeniably creepy and unnerving, and it's the rare horror film where intentionally confusing the audience (or at least, keeping them at arm's length) works in its favor. Michael becomes obsessed with trying to put the "clues" together and make sense out of what he's finding, turning it into a "story" as he keeps calling the things he sees on videotapes and photographs, just as the audience will, even when things become impossible to explain. And that's where it's key that the two leads are both terrific actors and playing sympathetic characters, because all this confusion could just turn an audience off (and let's be honest - it probably will for some). No matter how puzzling the movie gets, I never felt frustrated or bored, because I was hooked on the two main characters.

As you might have gathered by now, it's a dense, tricky film that gives you a lot to chew on, and that's tough especially in a festival, when it's sandwiched between two other movies and you're possibly running on fumes. Plus, it's not a film that holds your hand and explains everything to you, so you have to piece certain elements together yourself. For me, that means when I watched it again, I noticed little things I missed that were important, like the fact that Michael randomly stops to take a photo on his way to Chris' house. At a certain point, Chris accuses him of doing all of this stuff himself, so that little bit adds weight to his theory. I also noticed one or two more of the "flashes" that occur throughout the film, suggesting that things are amiss earlier than I thought.

Here's the coolest thing though - while I still have questions, I enjoyed the movie just as much, possibly a bit more this time around, which is also rare in this modern era, where so many films don't hold up at all on a second viewing. I can list examples and there will be a guy in the comments refuting every one of them, so why bother - just think about how many times you've bought a Blu-ray of a recent film that you enjoyed in theaters, only to find yourself feeling somewhat indifferent on the second go. And I felt rewarded for going back, another rarity. I'm not talking about like "Oh, when you see Cabin in the Woods a second time you'll catch more names on the white board," because lots of movies have that sort of stuff - I'm talking about movies that are so well constructed that they include things you never would have put together on the first view. Like in Usual Suspects, how they tell you in reverse who robbed the truck. The way the information is doled out in the sequence of the film, no one would ever think to notice that Kevin Pollak's character was the only one laying down in their jail cell, and it's not until a few scenes later that you hear Kujan's anecdote about how the guy laying down is the guilty party. Both moments come long before Kobayashi reveals that he was the one who did it, so when you go back for a second view and see him laying down, you shouldn't be able to control your smile. That's the sort of stuff that you don't get often enough in horror films, and why I'm happy to find films like Resolution that put that much effort into these little "throwaway" bits.

Tribeca is releasing the film on a couple of theaters this Friday (January 25th), but while I usually champion the theatrical format over all others, in this case you might want to go the VOD route (for many of you, that'll be the only option anyway). Not only can you see it earlier (it's actually on Amazon On Demand NOW!), but you'll be able to rewind key bits, or the entire movie - something you can't do in theaters. I suspect you'll take advantage of this ability.

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