There are certain films that seem to actively refuse to be categorized by genre. This kind of film contains percentages of genre elements, but never enough to create a majority share. Resolution, a film by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, is one of these kind of films. Bits of horror, bits of drama, and bits of mumble-core are all on display, but none of them come to the forefront enough to declare proprietary ownership of the film’s genre. Sometimes this lack of definability is a sign of a lack of focus, a general lack of narrative cohesiveness. Other times it is an intentional method of storytelling, used in hopes of serving a larger theme or message. Luckily for the viewer, Resolution is the latter kind of film.
Resolution itself is a film best discussed in broadly vague terms. The less you have been exposed to before viewing the film, the more successful the film will probably be for each viewer. This is not due to spoilers or any threat of the narrative being ruined. In truth, it’s not completely clear if Resolution could even be spoiled if a person were to try. The film itself is so obtuse and free-flowing in its general layout that the plot itself is mostly a very light adhesive that keeps the real heart of the story marching forward. That heart consists of pure rumination. Resolution has a premise of meta-proportions and it is hell bent on exploring them.
Without trying to influence anyone’s view on what that premise is, the best description of Resolution’s conceit would be to imagine Cabin in the Woods, but directed by Shane Carruth. If that sounds like something you could get behind, a meta-laden dissection of the horror genre but with the self-reflective intellect of “Upstream Color” or “Primer”, then you’re gonna love this movie.
If, though, you are looking for more horror and less meta this film will be both ill-paced and aggravating for you. That said, you can find comfort in the fact that Resolution itself is sympathetic to you. It too really wants to be a horror film, but its characters just won’t allow it. Again, in intentionally vague terms there are several forces, some of them beyond that fourth wall, that demand the horror film we’ve all seen before. Inciting incidents and generally creepy moments flitter across the screen with the expected frequency, desperately trying to get the characters to react in a typically horror-trope way. The characters, though, seem more intent on analyzing and discussing their past, their relationship, and the scarred emotions that are left from it.
The most impressive bit of Resolution is how the camera and that fourth wall interacts with our story and characters. With certain placements, film-burn effects, and a bit of well timed shaky cam, Benson and Moorhead further their own conceit with an impressive bit of technical filmmaking. Also worth a mention is the quality of the acting within Resolution. The film leans heavily on two performances from Michael Danube and Vinny Curran. It leans so heavily, in fact, that if their performances faltered, the entire movie would probably topple over with them. Instead of an implosion of failed performances, though, the film is strengthened by the strong portrayals on display here.
So with all of that in mind, Resolution is undoubtedly a very good film. Like many of its introspective peers, though, it runs the risk of confusing, defying, or aggravating a certain type of viewer. On the other hand, there is so much to contemplate and digest within the running time of Resolution it will reward those who watch, and re-watch, it without any assumptions. That means that, yes, this is a good film, but it also means that a large part of its success depends on what’s beyond that fourth wall.