A shaggy dog story, which turns out to be about shaggy dog stories, Resolution – directed by screenwriter Justin Benson and cinematographer Aaron Scott Moorhead, who also cameo as UFO cultists – is also an entry in the cabin-in-the-woods horror cycle, and even shares some thematic blood with Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods. A canny, Corman-style exploitation strategy might capitalise on this by positioning Resolution as a Piranha or Death Race 2000 to Cabin’s Jaws or Rollerball.
Its initial premise might seem meat for an indie mumblecore drama as responsible married man Michael Danube (Peter Cilella), reassessing his life as he is about to become a father, resolves to settle unfinished business with his oldest friend, Chris Daniels (Vinny Curran). Seemingly content with life as a no-hope drug addict, Chris is holed up in a spacious shack on what turns out to be an Indian reservation, going through a stash of drugs and taking pot-shots at real and imaginary birds with guns from a small arsenal he has disturbingly easy access to in the basement. Michael visits Chris and uses a stun-gun to incapacitate him, then chains him up and vows to stay with him until he gets straight. However, this impromptu cold turkey treatment is complicated by the occasional visits of a pair of lowlifes who were at school with Michael and Chris and are now shakily in a drug-dealing business with Chris and some mildly threatening Native Americans who extort rent for the shack and give a deadline for the pair to get off the haunted land.
Michael keeps finding traces of various stories in a variety of media – journals, photographs, phonograph records, tape recordings, film, digital – which indicate a long history of horrors, some natural, some supernatural. In addition, blissed-out UFO cultists have a retreat in the area, a strange woman scratches at the window at night, and there are traces of a French archaeological/physics expedition which vanished in these woods some years before. Even as Chris struggles with his addition and his chain, Michael senses dangers closing in. The story has a nice overall arc, as the initial focus on cold turkey widens to show that the leads should worry more about larger concerns, though horror aficionados might find the nebulous, mostly offscreen manifestations not quite less scary enough, especially in the climactic encounter with the unknown.
It’s mostly a two-character drama, with fine work from both leads, but Bill Oberst Jr – who plays the currently-often-filmed former president in Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies and has had genre roles in The Devil Within and Nude Nuns With Big Guns – has a significant, expositional scene as the burned-out, caravan-dwelling leader of the vanished French expedition. Just as it’s carried by its lead actors, it seems to be a two-man show behind the scenes; Benson and Moorhead have both directed short films and Moorhead, in addition to many cinematographer credits, directed an earlier feature, A Glaring Emission (2010).