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Lady Pam De GraffRESOLUTION (2012) independent
WRITTEN BY: Justin Benson
DIRECTED BY: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
FEATURING: Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Zahn McClarnon, Bill Oberst Jr., Kurt David Anderson, Emily Montague
TAGS: genre-bender; drama, mystery, occult, horror

PLOT: In this tense micro-budget thriller, a young man tries to bring his friend back to reality, only to find that "reality" is not just open to interpretation, but malleable and ever-changing. In fact, the pair's reality might not even be their own.

COMMENTS: In spite of some worn cliches -mysterious found footage, missing researchers, and a mystic medicine cabin obligatorily set on an Indian reservation, with Resolution, independent writer/director Justin Benson brings us a breath of fresh air. The film is technically adept on its small budget, and presents a real genre-bender of a plot. Resolution builds slowly as a crime drama, becomes a psychological suspension, then morphs into a puzzler riddled with paradoxes. It releases in a brief climax of occult horror.

In the story, yuppie Michael (Peter Cilella) travels to a remote squatters' shack, where his addict friend Chris (Vinny Curran), bristling with firearms and contraband, has holed up, resolved to kill himself with drugs. Michael restrains Chris, and forces him to withdraw "cold-turkey" over the course of a week.



A progression of weirdos make the scene. Chris's low-life cohorts (Kurt David Anderson and Kyler Meacham) drop in, demanding drugs. A tightly-wired Native American property owner (Zahn McClarnon) and his menacing gang show up to evict the occupants. A scheming real estate developer (Josh Higgins) creeps in, mistaking Michael and Chris for the deed-holders, and a doomsday religious cult is engaging in shenanigans a little too nearby for comfort.



Michael strives to maintain control over the situation to buy enough time to get Chris straightened out, and back to civilization and rehab. Despite the threat posed by oddball interlopers, the real tension is yet to come.

Someone...or some THING is watching -and recording everything Michael and Chris do. But how? The surveillance indicates a presence that looms closer and closer, yet Michael can't detect the observer.

Looking for clues, Micheal discovers strange footage shot by a missing anthropology team, then locates a laconic neighbor, Bryon (Bill Oberst Jr.), with an uncomfortably unorthodox existential philosophy. From here the story plunges into perplexing paradoxes. Chris's sleazy drug buddies and the landowner converge for a showdown. Mind-bending events knock Mike and Chris away from objective reality and any sense of control over their destinies.

Resolution is talky, but intriguing. The long-winded plot is better suited for an hour short. Aside from establishing an initial setting and circumstances, the first half of the film doesn't bear vital relation to the engaging concepts of the second. It's still pretty good, though. Unsettling developments keep us watching. Plot twists reveal a honeycomb of passages down which to venture. Rather than choose one of them and proceed, the filmmakers offer a twisted experience based on the fact that these alternate routes exist.



Part of the fun of Resolution is thinking about the various possibilities and what they mean. In our minds, we DO pursue them, trying to predict the outcome, but just when we think we know what's going to happen, Resolution throws us a new twist. Throughout it all ripples a nerve-jarring undercurrent of menace, indeterminate, and incipient. Mike and Chris's safe return to the outside world is increasingly unfeasible.




There's some subtle cinematic artistry in Resolution which reinforces the exposition. In the scene in which Michael is conversing with Byron, Byron discusses his views about narrative and story. As he explains to Michael, Byron holds a mirror. At first, the mirror is angled so that Micheal's reflection blends with Byron's face. The effect is to project Byron and Micheal as melded together, projecting a dual entity. But Michael cannot see it. Only we can see it.


Byron angles the mirror so that we see another mirror on the wall behind Michael, producing the illusion of endless repetition. It illustrates the concept of how a painter records a scene. There is the scene, and the painter painting it. But there is a larger scene. For us to see the painter painting the scene, there must be another painter, painting the painter painting the scene... and so on to infinity. This is a pivotal moment in the film. Resolution carries distinct, though not fully developed sub-themes about the evolution and structure of folklore, myth and story, and these are tied into the paradoxes.


Filmed in a half-completed lodge under construction, illuminated by hook lamps, and without background music, intimate camerawork increases a sense of realism, almost like seeing a documentary. The technique is effective because Resolution turns out to be all about deconstruction and the plastic nature of reality. By the time we realize this, we've accepted the actuality of what's transpired, only to have the drop sheet yanked out from under our feet.




You can also watch "Resolution" On Amazon Instant Video

Lady Pam De GraffTHE CHILDREN (2008)
WRITTEN BY: Paul Andrew WIlliams and Tom Shankland
DIRECTED BY: Tom Shankland
FEATURING: Eva Birthistle, Stephen Campbell Moore, Jeremy Sheffield, Rachel Shelley

PLOT: Minors shouldn't play with dead things. Or be allowed to carry on with a cutlery catalogue fantasy of sharp, pointy objects. Especially when something evil makes sticky, snot-nosed children turn into sticky, snot-nosed children with a lust for murdering adults. The Children is a simple, but effective thriller relatively free of the worst clichés, and based on Paul Andrew Williams' short story, The Cottage.

COMMENTS: Never trust anyone over 30.

Or under 12.

Especially if they've dipped their Pixie Sticks in a mysterious slime mold that looks like vomited-up eggs.

Yes, it's true. Kids are attracted to goo the way flies are drawn to manure. When two smug, yuppie couples bring their mufti-offspring families together for a politically correct, child-centric Yuletide holiday, way, way out in the snow-bound middle of nowhere, the kids do just that.

Become attracted to goo, that is. Some kind of mysterious goo that seems to be spreading inexplicably around the countryside.

Hey what is that stuff?

Animal, vegetable, mineral, virus, or just plain toxic glop dumped by your local Beatrice Foods/WR Grace manufacturing mill? We don't know! But kids -the kind of kids who put everything in their mouths to better understand what those things are, seem to have a penchant for getting this stuff on them and in them.

And it turns them evil!


It does so in a subtle, incipient way. The enigmatic yuck-spunk sparks psychedelic visions as the kids begin to engage in some pretty gross and gruesome activities, One thing leads to another down a slippery slope to sadism and murder, until whatever it is compels the youngsters to kill mum and dad. And we aren't talking about Junior exercising bad judgement by putting a Molotov cocktail in dad's car engine for a good joke. All thirteen year old boys want to do THAT.

No, it's more like eight year old Junior positioning a pitchfork in front of a downhill-sledding patriarch, barreling drunkenly toward his doom. And it's done in a way that looks just like an honest accident. Evidently Junior finds amusement in dad's frantic antics and shocked countenance as he realizes he can't stop in time to keep said pitchfork from making a toupee out of his scalp. (Oddly, there must be something about becoming adults that makes us forget we can simply bail off a fast-moving, child's sled.)



Well, you get the idea.

Two families, full of the latest Dr. Spock style paradigms, who don't believe in spanking their young-'uns, keep themselves in denial as their offspring gradually have them for lunch. One might argue that the brood pack behaves only slightly worse than most children are naturally inclined to deport themselves when enjoying a liberal sparing of the veritable rod.

That's serious enough though to make for a scary story because the caregivers are slow to come to the realization that their little darlings are going bat-funk crazy and becoming bloodthirsty -more so than might be expected from their merely listening to rap music. Worse, their spoil-the-child values mean the adults are loathe to resort to necessary violence to defend themselves. The elders become a smorgasbord for their killer children's baser instincts.

Most of the suspense in The Children ensues from this critical inability to decisively perceive and meet the threat. Additionally, the parents' liberal attitudes, inattentiveness, and the fact that until all children are taught about the social contract, their natural inclination is more toward the savage than the civilized, provides an undertone of social commentary similar to Jonothan Kaplan's fact--inspired, 1976 adolescent shocker, Over The Edge. Ironically, the only adult in The Children who grasps what's really happening has no credibility because she's a rebellious 16 year old.

If the moms and dads believed in administering good spankings, The Children would have been about a ten minute movie -with the kids being stuffed in the nearest available wood-stove by their exasperated kin ala a reversal of Hansel And Gretel. But sadly, or maybe enjoyably (because it's cruel fun to see the pretentious, doltish, overly-fertile parents being eliminated from the gene pool) such is not the case. Unwilling to accept that their kids have become incipiently scheming and patricidally evil, the adults blame each other.

And that's basically the plot.

The Children, however, is better than it sounds. While the set-up is remarkably simple and straightforward with a chronological storyline, it's actually an effectively scary movie. Within its context, the story and characters are believable, the undertone is tensely creepy, and the well-cast child actors give solid performances.

The Children bears an uncanny resemblance to The Children (1980), in which school kids become toxic, matricidal avengers after exposure to industrial waste, and along those environmental lines, to Bert Gordon's production of H.G. Wells' Food Of The Gods (1976). Not as chilling as the more creatively clever Village Of The Damned (1960, 1995), and Children Of The Damned (1964), or as socially contemplative as The Bad Seed (1956), or The Good Son (1993), The Children is still a worthwhile watch if you enjoyed those movies.

Just how sick are these kids going to become? Will Junior sprout horns and a third eye? Or just choose a path toward an eventual pre-law scholastic curriculum?

As you view The Children and contemplate such eventualities, you are sure to enjoy its foreboding tone and delightful ick! factor, as the film charts its course toward a satisfyingly eerie, but unremarkable open ending.






You can also watch "The Children" On Amazon Instant Video

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