Resolution (2012)

res1.pngResolution, a low-budget indie sci-fi/horror film with allusions to Lovecraft and others, features as an ‘extra’ on Arrows excellent recent Blu-ray release of The Endless (2017). As the two films are linked by location/themes/characters I watched Resolution prior to the main feature.

Its quite true of the horror genre that low budgets can be a great asset- necessity, it is often said, is the mother of invention, and this film is a clear example of when film-makers make such a lot of so little. Structured rather like a play its mainly a character piece, with a limited cast (essentially just two actors dominate the whole thing) its a psychological horror which starts fairly normal but then slowly starts to suggest all sorts of strange and horrifying possibilities about the nature of reality. I’d take films like this over the standard Hollywood nonsense of horny teens caught in the woods being preyed upon some monster, any day of the week.

Set on a remote Indian reservation, Resolution tells the story of two old freinds, Michael (Peter Cilella) and Chris (Vinny Curran) who reunite in a remote half-completed lodge- Chris is a drug addict well on the way to killing himself and Michael is making one last try at getting Chris clean, taking the opportunity of their isolation to force him to go ‘cold turkey’ over a week. A UFO doomsday-cult nearby suggests that there may be weird things going on in the area, and Michael begins to stumble on strange discoveries and occurrences.  As Chris starts to become more lucid and free of his drugs influence they both begin to realise that they are being watched by something unseen that somehow communicates by offering them ‘found footage’ video etc from what appears to be their future- or indeed, alternate futures. As the mystery unfolds it becomes clear that their lodge, the cult and environs have a darker, stranger history than they can imagine.

To say any more would do the film a disservice, as its a great little movie with some big ideas and on the whole it is executed extremely well that belies its budget and scale. I guess you’d call this ‘intellectual horror’ rather than ‘graphic horror’, and it certainly reminds me of good old ghost stories that suggested more than they showed.

There is a great sense of the cosmic unknown of Lovecraft’s better work and the leads are just simply brilliant, frankly, really doing well with the material. There is a warmth and familiarity between the two leads that convinces of the bond from their shared past, and the strangeness of their isolated location is conveyed well. A few other minor characters make some telling impact, too, making it a rather perfect little horror movie. I liked it very much- it keeps the viewer guessing right to the end and is only slightly marred by a wtf ending that benefits, in hindsight, by having  the latter movie The Endless allow the story to follow on some years later with a largely new cast of characters and some kind of, pardon the pun, actual resolution.

One of the genuine surprises of the year.

The Witch (2015)

thew12016.78: The Witch (Amazon VOD)

The Witch is a superior horror film but also a divisive one.  There are a few jumpy scares, little gore- its not THAT kind of horror film. Instead its really more about conveying  an ever-deepening sense of dread. Its a beautifully-shot film dripping with mood and atmosphere and slowly rising terror, but the slow pace, and lack of defined ‘evil’ (or even ‘good’) seems to have alienated many. Modern audiences don’t seem to handle ambiguity or invitation to interpretation very well. For myself, well, I absolutely adored it, and was then quite dumbfounded to learn of so many negative opinions of the film,  so much so I wondered if I had seen the same film. Of course I had- indeed the very same things I loved about the film, the archaic old English being spoken, the attitudes and behaviour of characters of their own time, the slow pace, the sense of unsettling mood and the utterly unexplained horror that befalls the characters, all the things I loved, were the same things that detractors hated in their comments/reviews. Shockingly, some people even walked out of screenings during the films cinema release.

Dubbed A New England Folk Tale, according to the title screen at the start of the film, it tells the story of a 17th-Century puritanical English family who have moved to the New World. Banished from their settlement due to some undefined dispute with the Church Elders, the family  set out into the unexplored, untamed wilderness and build a homestead and farm near some wild woods. Several months after settling there, the youngest child -scarcely a baby- is mysteriously taken by some vague supernatural figure (‘the Witch’ of the title) and suffers some awful end in a bloody rite.

thew2The family, ignorant of the supernatural presence looming in the depths of the nearby woods, simply think the infant has been snatched by a wolf and are consumed with guilt as if this tragedy has been brought about by Gods judgement of them. As the crops fail and other maladies befall them, this sense of guilt and self-loathing intensifies and the family start to turn on each other. In tone it feels like Kubrick’s The Shining mixed up with elements from all sorts of European folk tales (the Witch raises from her lair looking like Red Riding Hood at one point). It looks bizarrely ravishing in a grey, dreary, monochrome way, and sounds utterly horrifying (an unnerving soundtrack of period instruments coupled with wailing reminiscent of György Ligeti’s atmospheres in 2001: A Space Odyssey).

Its a nightmare of puritanical guilt, a family consumed by their faith and religion, the darkness of their wild surroundings settling into their hearts, as if the land is itself turning upon them. Is it actually a Witch terrorising them (she never speaks, or has her actions explained, and is only fleetingly glimpsed) or is it simply the Puritans own guilt and self-loathing manifested in the shadows, externalised into something that truly only exists in their minds?

Based on all sorts of folklore and memoirs, it hearkens back to real history, of settlers in the New World struggling through the horrors of famine and disease and child mortality,the brutal testing of their Faith eventually culminating in tales of Witchcraft (and the resulting Salem Witch-trials ).

thew3The characters all seem very real; they are of their time, never really behaving or reasoning things out as modern people would (hence the frustrations, I expect, of some audiences). Its a reminder that most period films are simply transposing modern people into historical tableau- something simply not the case here. The sense of place and time is utterly convincing; the period details are rich and seem authentic, and some of the imagery is quite amazing (and very disturbing). Its a genuinely unsettling, really gripping horror film and one of the best films I have seen this year. I’ll cautiously recommend it as I can appreciate its rather divisive, but crikey, what a horror film. It really gets under your skin (well, it did mine anyway, and I’ve been endlessly thinking about it ever since I saw it.)

Simply brilliant.