The human heart is the scariest cabin in the woods

The second terrific horror flick I saw over the weekend is Resolution. Again, the underlying idea is sharp and simple: Michael gets an email containing a video of his estranged best friend Chris, who’s now living in the middle of nowhere doing meth and shooting at birds. He decides to make one last attempt to get Chris into rehab. When Chris refuses, Michael shrugs, tasers him, and chains him to the wall of his hideous meth-addict hell-cabin. They’re going to stay there for a week, until the drug works its way out of Chris’s system. But then strange things start happening, and the balance of sanity starts to shift, as Chris gets a little more lucid and Michael gets a little more… off.

So much about this movie is great. The rapport between the two guys is hilarious and real. The movie is really funny overall, despite also being a slow-burn scare with a brutally sad undertow. The setting, a California hippie/cultist hideout on the edge of an Indian reservation, gives the audience tons of red herrings and spooky locations to explore. The movie is twisty and fun enough that you’re totally engrossed as it lopes through various misadventures, ending up with an ambiguous but IMO deeply despairing ending.

There are a lot of levels of meaning here. The movie turns out to be about, among other things, whether stories need to have endings and what kind. And so the addiction storyline becomes a way of showing how getting clean, which could be seen as the beginning of a recovery story, feels like an ending. There’s also the theme of obsession, as Michael’s own needs begin to warp his judgment. You know things have gotten rough when you need to argue, “Assume that I am honest and sane!”

And there’s a theme of audience complicity. I almost called this review “Cabin in the Woods 2: Cabin Harder,” because for my money it’s a harsher and more intelligent attack on the audience than either Cabin in the Woods or Funny Games. I liked (certain things about) both of those movies. And I don’t know that every movie has to have lots of layers; it’s okay to be a blunt instrument. But Resolution is a deeper and subtler movie about similar themes of why we watch what we watch, why we tell the stories we tell, what we’re doing when we envision life as a horror movie and on some level enjoy that vision.

About Eve Tushnet

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