Interview: Directors Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead discuss their cabin in the woods horror film, ‘Resolution’
One of the few horror films kicking around the film festival circuit in 2012 that the entire Sound On Sight staff seemed to agree on, was Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Resolution. My colleagues and I have been tracking it ever since it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and so when the filmmakers recently approached me asking if I’d be interested in an interview, I couldn’t say no.
Resolution is the debut feature film from a pair of directors who deliver a clever, engrossing and original meta-horror film about a man helping his friend to beat his drug addiction. As one character states: “If we can get to the end of this reel of film, we will be fine.” The same can be said for the viewer. The title itself has dual meaning, but only in retrospect. Resolution is one of those films that delivers an intelligent commentary on the genre and our relationship as a viewer without ever feeling smug or shallow. Here is my interview with Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, directors of Resolution. Enjoy!
Ricky: Can you tell us about the genesis of the project?
Justin Benson: Aaron and I, after we became friends started working together more and more and we became big fans of the Preacher books and took inspiration from that.
R: There aren’t many directing teams in the horror genre, so I was wondering how you two came about meeting and working together.
Aaron Moorhead: Basically we both met as interns and started working together on each other’s films. I actually shot Justin’s short films and we eventually started working as co-directors.
J: We each have about ten years of DIY filmmaking experience.
R: How many hats do you wear on set?
J: That is a very good question. We both wear a lot of hats. Aaron directs, he is the director of photography, he is the visual effects artists and edits. I am director, writer, producer, co-editor and we both do a bit of sound design as well.
R: Were there ever any times when you’ve had major creative differences and was there any major changes made from the original script to the final product?
J: Well in terms of creative differences. We are both of similar taste so they are rare. Butting heads isn’t really the the phrase for it as it would be ego-less discussion. And even that, it is mostly intuitive. Sometimes if we are working on a project and we have a difference of opinion, we normally if anything, go with whoever feels more stronger about it.
A: Lets face it, movies made by committees are usually terrible. You can’t really make a good movie with a committee. But having two people make a movie is almost cheating. It is like having four arms, two heads and so on.
R: Resolution defies genre classification but I was wondering if genre boundaries shaped your decisions along the way.
J: What a question. In all honesty, they did not shape our vision whatsoever. We just don’t think in terms of genre. We are not really students of any particular genre. We just like watching movies and reading books and we love good story telling. Marketing was never a factor. We weren’t concerned with how the DVD box would be categorized at your local Blockbuster.
R: So earlier on you mentioned Garth Ennis and his Preacher comics. Would you ever be interested in adapting it to the big screen?
A: Yeah we would love that, we really would.
R: I’m pretty sure you can’t help but escape comparison to Cabin in the Woods. I think both films tackle the horror tropes that surround the “cabin in the woods” genre and they both dig deep into a meta narrative that informs the trope, but I feel you guys approach it in a completely opposite way. Correct me if I am wrong but it seems like Cabin deliberately uses those stereotypes to shape the movie whereas Resolution seems to disregard the stereotypes and focus instead on character. Is that a fair comparison?
J: We Love everything you just said and we love Cabin in the Woods by the way but that is a perfect comparison and a great way to be compared to such a great movie. It is such a great movie and one of the best movies of last year. In a lot of ways Cabin In The Woods is an homage movie but in Resolution, we seem to have done the opposite.
R: One of the characters in the film is a drug addict but you don’t actually give him an external reason for his bad habit. I like this choice.
A: You are a very smart man. Yes that was very important to us. There is the scarey, creepy supernatural stuff within the movie but than there is the scary human stuff as well. What scares me the most is having a kid that just sucks and there is nothing I can do about it. There are truly scary things in life, like having a certain body chemistry that just makes you love drugs or having a personality that makes you a judgmental prick – things you are born with and can’t change. You are just simply born with it.
R: The film seems to explore urban legends and perhaps examines our human fascination with storytelling. Is this a fair observation?
J: No, not really but the one thing that we really did try, was to create our own new mythology as appose to borrowing from others. People always think that if they are going to make a movie that is scary it has to have werewolves, vampires, zombies, but we tried to build the mythology of our own monster. We wanted our monster, our unseen protagonist to be always evolving and evolving in the way it records stories and in the way it presents these stories. So it begins with cave paintings and expands from there.
R: Is it frustrating to wait so long to have your film theatrically released?
A: There is nothing frustrating about anything that has happen to us and our film. It has been an amazing experience. The film festival circuit is a filmmakers wet dream and the last six months of our lives have been incredible.
R: I find that in America horror films, specifically the independent ones of recent years have focused more on atmosphere and good story telling as appose to outright gore and blood. Why the change?
A: Well storytelling is evolving and I think people are trying to find new ways to tell similar stories and different stories. There is an amazing art to making an extremely gory film but I would agree that the majority don’t always rely on character building and atmosphere as much. That said, I like eclecticism in my horror. There is an art to a well constructed gory scene but it gets boring when it happens every ten minutes or so. But if you are building to it, you can create a moment everyone will remember.
J: Filmmaking is starting to get easier. It’s cheaper. It is more accessible. Visibility is easier. It is easier to practice now since you don’t have to spend so much money developing film. It is pretty damn easy to shoot something on video, edit it and put it out on the internet. So people who are really wonderful artists at heart are becoming better because they are now able to do it through practice without having rich parents.
R: What advice would you give striving filmmakers?
J: Don’t not, not make movies. Always make something. For the love of God, don’t move to Los Angeles and tell everyone you are af filmmaker at every party and not make films. You wait tables to make money to make films. There are way more people actually doing than not. The competition is fierce so you have to just do it.
A: That is one of the reasons we get along so well. We have really intense work ethics and we put aside pretty much everything else in order to make movies.
J: And remember you can do anything you want but keep it interesting and fresh.
R: When does your movie come out
A: January 23rd on VOD, Amazon and I tunes. It has a limited theatrical release on the 25ht of January in Los Anglelas and we will be present to introduce every screening.[vsw id=”6esCjQHzteg” source=”youtube” width=”650″ height=”375″ autoplay=”no”]