Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Resolution, a Revolutionary Chiller

In Theaters and on VOD

Resolution, a Revolutionary Chiller

(from 1/23/13)

Group photo by Danny Peary (L-R): Aaron Moorehead, Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Justin Benson
Resolution, an eerie, funny, highly original horror film, was one of the surprises of last year's Tribeca Film Festival. I want to alert everyone that you can see it beginning today on cable VOD, iTunes, Amazon Watch Instantly, VUDU, and more, and it will open in select theaters beginning January 25th. It's definitely worth a look. Below is a Q&A that directors Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson, and stars Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran did with the audience after a Tribeca screening, followed by my one-on-four interview. Cilella plays a young man who goes to rescue his rambunctuous friend, played by Curran, who is freaking out on drugs and paranoia in a cabin in the wilds. There are many strange things and people, some quite dangerous, in the woods--and maybe even something supernatural. That's all you need to know other than the acting is terrific, the dialogue--and there is a lot of chatter--is sharp and witty, and it's a thinking-man's chiller. The following is verbatim.
Audience Q&AQ: How did this idea come to you? How did you turn tt into this great film?
Justin Benson: The real answer is super long so I'll just pick a few pieces of it. First off, Aaron, myself and Vinny and Pete discovered that we worked real well together on a low-budget beer commercial. Simultaneously, my dad told me that he wanted to build a fifth cabin on a property he already had four cabins on. According to the San Diego planning department, you can only do that if it's a film set. True story. The other thing was that I'm a huge fan of horror films, especially The Evil Dead and Cabin Fever and films like that. The thing is that I'd never known anyone from San Diego who had gone to the woods with a couple of hot girls for the weekend. The only reason I've ever known anyone to go to the woods in San Diego is to avoid paying their taxes, smoke crack, and shoot guns. So I thought of Vinny!
Vinny Curran: Me? What? I've got nothing to say yet! Does anyone have any questions to ask me specificallyabout my process or what I like to do to prepare? Anything, anyone? Not one question for me! Hey, it's all right. [Laughter]. The honest answer: I've never smoked crack. What I did smoke in the film was rock salt and tobacco; it's what we used for the crack.
JB: I have one dollar in my pocket. If you can answer the following question, this dollar will be yours. How many times did the actor Vinny Curran say fuck in the actual film?
I believe it's 412 times.
Q: The dialogue was amazing. How did you guys come up with that? Did you actually write it down and then perform it?
Aaron Moorehead: I wrote it! It was written but we did about three months of rehearsal before principal photography, so we shaped it a lot in rehearsals as well--that's probably why it sounds so good.
JB: When he was writing the script, he actually called me up while he was doing it, and he was like, "There's this guy next door and he lives in a small apartment with very thin walls and he's doing loads of crack. He is the greatest inspiration I've ever had.
Q: How many days did you guys shoot, and was it with a RED ONE or RED MX?
AM: We shot for at least 17 days was it 18? Something like that. It was shot on the RED MX.
Q: How many pages a day was that?
resolutiontwosome.jpg  Vinny Curran and Peter Cilella

AM: We initially scheduled it out. Justin and I looked over the schedule and it was a very ambitious, seven pages a day or something like that. We quickly learned that we were shooting somewhere close to 12 pages a day, and had continually added full scenes to the day we were shooting, so it was the polar opposite--it was the exact opposite of everything you hear about indie filmmaking, where you're running about three weeks behind. We were actually way ahead. Honestly, as a testament to these two actors, we rehearsed for three months beforehand, they had their lines cold, and we didn't do any rehearsals until the three weeks leading up to the shoot, so they'dstill be familiar. When we got up on set, they studied their lines every single night, like very good actors do.
Q: Where did you stay while filming?
VC: We stayed at a sixth-grade camp! It was awesome! He rented a sixth-grade camp, offseason, and so we all lived in a sixth-grade camp. Bunk beds. There was a kitchen we all shared, and there were all these board games. So we would actually sit by the campfire together and go over our lines. It was the highlight of the whole experience for me.
Q: Do you have other projects planned?
JB: We do have a project, actually, in the works, I just read the script a few weeks ago that's just lovely. Its very much like Resolution in tone, in the fact that it's kind of a genre-bender, too, and it's really, really funny I think its even funnier. It's way bloodier, there's torture in it... and we are seeking financing [Laughter].
Q: Did you ever give any consideration to going with a happy ending?
JB: Who said it is not a happy ending? That exact ending was the first thing that I wrote. I liked the idea of the audience feeling like they've been sitting in a monster's lap for 93 minutes, and discovering that at the end. I'm not going to commit to saying the end signals absolute doom--and if every single one of you comes to the next showing, then I will reveal what happened after we cut to black!
Q: Did you ever actually study any Native American folklore? Where did you get your concept from?
JB: No, I didnt at all. I think I pulled some really shallow ideas out of an intro to an anthropology book, and then expounded upon those.
Q: Is this your first film?
JB: It's definitely not our first filmwe made a ton of commercials and music videos, all that stuff. As far as inspirations, I think Aaron and I had both bonded because of our love for the Preacher books. We're really inspired by those as far as they're way genre-bonding. We love the Coen brothers, we love Korean revenge movies. I love every single horror movie. And I love Bruce Campbell.
One on FourDanny Peary: I was thinking at the beginning of the movie that this is like Kevin Smith directing a horror movie. It's almost like the characters from Clerks a little bit, at the beginning. Silent Bob. So you said Evil Dead. Evil Dead II or Evil Dead I? More than any other horror film when writing this, were you thinking this fits with it?
JB: When I was writing it, 100% honestly, I was trying to write the best horror movie I possible could, and some of the horror movies that inspired me were The Orphanage, and Session 9 but when Aaron and I were actually making the movie, we never discussed genre, one time. We approached every scene to make it as scary as possible, or as funny as possible, and then just making the drama as effective as possible.
DP: You introduced the film tonight by telling the audience that they were allowed to laugh. Did they laugh in the right places?
AS: Yeah, yeah. They laughed in places that I didn't think they were going to laugh in. I didn't think the Tasering was going to get a laugh!
DP: Where did you film this?
JB: This was in East County, San Diego. In a little town that was the definition of a one-horse town--one grocery store and they have the gas, one diner, and they're the people that fed the crew. And 27 llamas.
DP: That was a creepy thing. The word I think of with your film is unsettling. Is that what you were aiming for, without thinking of that word particularly?
JB: Absolutely, I think you nailed it.
DP: There are very few night tor darkly-lit scenes, except when they go into the cave, which is all intentional on your part. There's a lot of talk, which is great for you.
VC: I hope it is. Our objective was definitely to build tension, but in a way that's less conventional than having a jump-scare moment every six or seven pages. Our objective was to build tension and make it unsettling without using conventional script rules.
JB: So many movies can fail without any levity whatsoever. Give the audience a break and a reason to cheer a little bit before going back into it all.
DP: You just said conventionally you need a certain amount of scares per page, but what about laughs in a film like this? How many laughs can you have? Tone would be the big challenge in your whole film.
JB: We did tone moment to moment, as opposed to a general feel for the whole film.
AM: The tone questions interesting, because usually we'd go for perfect takes, right of the bat, and we had to go edit it. We had to choose between 3 or 4 magical, perfect takes. And that was where we really shaped the tone of the movie, because a lot of times we'd have a take that'd be hilarious, a great take, but you'd use all your intuition when you looked at it, and say that was a little bit too broad or the tone was wrong. That was really how we shaped the tone, by choosing takes.
JB: Also, if you think about the actual plot and subject matter of the film, it's two guys in a cabin. Are you thinking they're not just going to tell gay jokes to each other for a week?
DP: Your characters knew each other since high school at least, probably even longer. They don't have to be in a horror movie--they could have been in an intervention movie with Deliverance-type people running around. Peter, your character Michael talks to his wife a lot, and he always lies, basically. Is that the history of the relationship between the two guys, that Michael's always covering for Chris?
PC: I think those phone scenes are important in that they] show that the pattern Michael and Chris have had since high school is unchanged. I always find it interesting in films to watch characters that are trying to change and then they just can't do it. I think there's something very real about that.
VC: And girls never understand a buddy relationship--they think Chris is an asshole. Why don't you stop hanging out with him? It's just a male kind of bond that bros have that girls dont understand.
DP: Michael likes Crhis better than Chris likes himself
PC: For whatever reason, Michael still cares about his friend.
DP: You cast really well. I noticed that nobody smiles outside of Michael and Chris in the area around the cabin. What's the purpose of the ancillary characters, including the guy with the briefcase who pays them a visit?
AM: The idea was to play around with horror types, and so ultimately they were used as red herrings. But they also did influence the big idea of the film, which is that they've all been effected by the same thing that Chris has been effected by, which is purposelly vague. They all see what the character Byron sees, in their own weird ways.
DP: And the girl in the window? That's a scare. It's creepy. A chilly goes up your spine.
AM: We've screened it for an audience twice now, and there are always some really great nervous laughs during that scene. Its almost like a nervous laugh when you're watching the footage from the Milgram experiment. In earlier versions of the script there were fewer horror conventions, so we added more.
DP: What you created is a house where there are all kinds of outside threats. Every single group that they meet is creepy.
JB: The idea wasn't to put one gun on the wall, it was to put a whole armory, you know.
DP: But as it turns out, they have to worry about all these but in addition there's something else.You never mentioned Blair Witch Project. Was that an influence? For me, it had the same tone as your film.
JB: That's interesting, because we actually never talked about that. But we never talked about using any other film as a tonal influence. We tried to make something I mean we're big film nerds, so no matter what we make were going to have our influences seeping in there somewhere although there was never any intentional reference.
DP: The Blair Witch part I was thinking of was just the bickering between the people.
VC: I never really thought about it, although these dudes were bickering You put these two characters in a room and they're going to fight like cats and dogs.
DP: What was the vibe on the set?
VC: I couldnt imagine it being cooler. We were all in it together, I cant speak for the entire cast and crew, but it was a labor of love. I felt like everybody was invested in it, everybody believed in the project and I think it fed into the camaraderie. We had a small crew, too, and we had craft services provided by Justin's parents, so there was a very family atmosphere. We had a lot of fun at night. We would all play board games together. Rummy Cube! We had a lot of Playstations. And there was a pretty awesome fire-pit, and we got drunk a lot.
JB: Aaron and I did the post-production in our cabin, and we would edit scenes at night, and then these guys would come by our cabin, and we would discuss the next day and sometimes look at our scenes from that day.
DP: I read in the production notes that you were editing scenes the very day you shot them, which is pretty unusual. Did you do that with commercials, so that was your style?
AM: It wasnt lack of time, but we moved fast.
DP: Where did you find the two actors? Did you guys audition?
PC: Justin was my aunt's assistant a few years ago. She's a producer. So she introduced us. I actually came in to audition for one of his short films, and he did not cast me in it. But we did a short film, a couple of commercials, and Vinny had been in every single of them
PC: We really liked working together, and it worked. Justin and I were having drinks one night and he said you know I really want to do a feature with you and Vinny. A contained thriller shot in the middle of nowhere. Two months later we had a script, and it was really good. We continued going back and forth.
DP: When reading the script, when did you know there was something special about it?
VC: I knew before I'd even seen it!
AM: Mine was ten pages in, to when Michael Tasered and handcuffed Chris. That was one of those where I had a physiological reaction to it, I couldnt wait to film it.
VC: Thats cool!
DP: And for you, when did you say. Chris is a great character?
VC: When he called me on the phone to say," I wrote a script that I want you and Pete to do," I was like, "Fuck yeah, I am in! I dont care what it is! I am in!"
DP: But what if they'd cast you in Peter's part and you in his part?
VC: Better movie! Thank about it-- we were both out of character in the movie, but it worked. I don't think like they think, I think I can do anything, I'm an actor, and they mold me like silly putty, pour me into what I was. Are the words making sense that Im saying?
DP: And in the editing process, what did you have to change?
JB: It was shortening it by killing your babies kind of stuff, it wasnt like a gigantic "Oh my god, how are we going to fix this monster?! We'd cut the scene together and be like, that's great, let's trim it down. There's not a whole lot on the cutting room floor.
DP: You see million of horror movies, and youre jaded and all that. Whats the one thing that really got you, if it really happened to you you'd get scared?
JB: Creepiest in the script, really the scariest thing to me...? I wont give away the antagonist and the big reveal, but I will say that I find our monster, our antagonist very interesting, because it doesn't seem to fit into any religious tradition, for example. If it's a demon, a demon requires that you believe, but if you don't have any religious affiliation, the very premise is not that scary.
DP: Evil is just as strong as good, and that's the theme of horror moviesI shoot. Those scenes were hard to get and one of the main reasons we cut that scene that night was because we werent sure if we had enough coverage.
AM: Especially because we've done it so many times now, there isn't always that fear of Oh my gosh are we going to succeed? We always have that fear, but with this one and our next project, theres no question of - is it going to nail it. I think its going to nail it at least for us. We have that process.
DP: The ending isnt an ending with finality there's no resolution, but it seems to be another time where Peter says, "Okay, lets do something else. Is that intentional?" That's what his character is to me, someone who says, "Okay, let's do this now."
AM: That's his general sense of optimism and not giving up; that's a big part of the last line in the movie. Try it another way.