Wednesday, May 7, 2014
The Cinema File #346: "Resolution" Review
For die hard horror fans, one of the more polarizing films of the last few years was Joss Whedon's Cabin In The Woods. Personally, I loved it, at least as a comedy, though I agree that as a horror movie, it doesn't work, and at the end of the day, I and many like me would usually prefer a standard horror movie done right than a deconstruction of genre tropes that isn't actually scary. Last year, an even smaller scale indie effort called Resolution featured a similar setting and promised a similar meta approach, without sacrificing the scares. Unfortunately, while it has a lot going for it, including a twist that I can honestly say I've never seen before, it doesn't quite satisfy as a horror film, or even as a sophisticated satire of one.
Resolution follows two friends stuck together in a cabin, in the woods no less, as one chains the other to a wall to detox him out of his cocaine addiction. As the non-cuffed friend begins to explore his surroundings he discovers, well, its really kind of hard to explain. The basic conceit is that something is watching them and exerting some degree of control over their lives, leaving behind evidence of itself via various forms of media old and new, each containing a story that ends horribly. Very quickly these stories begin to feature the two men prominently and reflect reality, or rather, potential futures in which their lives hang in the balance, forcing them to try and figure out just what's going on before they end up dead as prophesied.
On the one hand, the revelation as to the nature of this mysterious force is really the biggest thing the movie has going for it. Its a pay off that waits for the very end and even then, its ambiguous enough that you would be forgiven for not picking up on it upon first viewing. The problem is, there really isn't much about the movie other than figuring out the twist to justify a second viewing, and most likely, assuming you made it to the end at all, you won't want to bother going through it all again. Resolution is slow moving and not in a good way, and while there was at least enough to keep me going, and the pay off was nominally worth it for me, the film as a whole feels like the definition of an acquired taste.
I won't spoil it, except to say that if you imagine the horror film Abed Nadir from Community might make on a meager budget, its about just as pretentious and fourth wall breaking. Its novelty is just barely enough to excuse a certain indie hipster sensibility that seems to beg for originality kudos, but a good ending, and even a new and different one, isn't enough when the rest of the movie is as dry as this one. Its a really great idea in search of a movie, the fevered product of the most insufferable film school nerds you've ever met trying to distill the essence of horror but forgetting the part where interesting and frightening are not the same thing.
I sound like I'm doing nothing but bashing the movie, but I don't want to leave you with the impression that its completely without entertainment value. The thing is, what's good about it is everything except what seems to be the main selling point. The relationship between the two main characters is actually very funny and surprisingly sweet at times, so much so that after a while, I really wanted the movie to just be about them without all the escalating supernatural mystery. This could have made for a very good indie comedy about friendship and addiction, or a very chilling thriller about paranoia and media, but it tries to be both, and the two approaches get into each other's way.
Despite the comparisons to Cabin In The Woods, a better comparison for Resolution might be the horror equivalent of movies like Primer or Upstream Color, no-budget insular indie films with little to no regard for mainstream appeal, and more interested in challenging the expectations of those knowledgeable about film and storytelling than in actually telling a worthwhile story. Sometimes, as in the case of Primer and Upstream Color, the effort is worth it regardless, so thought provoking that the muddled narrative is forgotten, but Resolution doesn't quite make it far enough to look past its flawed execution.