Resin is a film that sounds better on paper. This isn’t to say it’s a bad film; it’s shot with a dreamy softness, and its superficial idyllic atmosphere gives it a distinct aesthetic. Still derivative of every other isolated-descent-into-madness films, it takes the typical “living in the woods psychologically affects children” story, and makes it about a father’s crumbling mental state.

The story follows Liv (Vivelil Søgaard Holm), a precocious thirteen-year-old girl living deep within the forest with her family, bedridden mother Maria (Sofie Gråbøl) and father Jens (Peter Plaugborg). They subsist on berries and hunted rabbits, but their means of survival slowly grows more depraved. We see them remove the organs of a stillborn baby and feast upon their spoils, hardly seeing any wrong in this because they have reverted to animalistic tendencies. We aren’t quite sure why they’re there, spare for an opening scene in which the father saves his daughter from drowning. There’s only one catch to this—the drowning was entirely faked.

It’s less straightforward than this, embarking into near-cerebral territory as it descends into paranoia. This paranoia isn’t exactly scary, but does horror have to be scary? The characters are in deep fear, but we are not—the viewer is merely a witness to their trauma rather than diving in with them. It’s an odd detachment for psychological horror, but it may fit well with the dreamlike stylistic choices. The film isn’t about the horror of what takes place, but the perception of it. Perhaps this excuses some of the inability to empathise that takes the forefront in the film.

Fatherhood in the wilderness has cropped up in the indie film circuit quite a bit lately. With recent entries like Captain Fantastic and Leave No Trace highlighting non-traditional parenting styles, specifically focusing on how they affect the children. Here it is more of the father’s mindset, where his parenting tactics affect him as well. He goes mad in the typical apocalyptic sense, and Liv is searching for a way out. There is little redeemability to the father character and even less motive, and this is perhaps the greatest downfall to simplifying his madness.

The question is, does Resin fall under the realm of style over substance? Well, the style is essentially the substance. It’s Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes by way of a Midsommar-like idyllicism, albeit one that gets lost along the way. It’s a sticky kind of horror, the whole film painted with the glow of liquid amber that’ll harden to stone as it runs down the camera lens. The result is gorgeous, and fits well with the glazed-over worldview of the family in the woods, but often it’s the only element of substance to pay attention to for much of the runtime.

Overall, it’s an atmospheric but drained blip in the horror genre along the lines of Hagazussa. Certainly not much to write home about in terms of tense plotting or any powerful emotional breakthrough, but powerful performances from Holm and Plaugborg help to somewhat elevate it. The greatest strength is the visuals, which almost appear to be filtered through pastel-colored glass. The rest is a by-the-books going insane in the woods story as soon as the death is revealed to be faked, and it suffers greatly after its early twist.


C+ Glasgow Film Festival

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