After firmly establishing themselves as impressive innovators in the low-budget but high-concept realm of mumblecore sci-fi/horror films with meta-movements and Lovecraftian leanings (2013’s Resolution and 2014’s Spring are must-see movies for genre junkies), the writer-director duo of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson present their most ambitious and riskiest gambit yet with The Endless.
Earnestly but not without wit and warm temperament the filmmaking pair behind the lens also take the two lead roles for this unusual, and refreshingly unconventional trip through the twilight zone, as protective and skeptical older brother Justin (Benson) and younger, more unaffected Aaron (Moorhead) find themselves in a bit of a rut.
There’s a delicious irony that the two men find their present idle –– a professedly endless loop of shit jobs, junk food, and borderline bankruptcy –– plagued, particularly for Aaron, with a yearning to return once more to Arcadia. Jokingly but with a grain of truth referred to as “a UFO death cult” and one that, a decade prior and at Justin’s insistence, the pair barely escaped, the arrival of a videotape tempting the brothers to return one last time. Will they journey back to the ashram out in the arid desert? Do you even have to ask?
Part of what makes The Endless so compelling and relishable is the complex and relatable relationship that the siblings share, and though many of the film’s key themes (grasping and understanding something absolute, liberation and regulation) have been studied by these filmmakers previously, as has their love for Lovecraft (for now, Spring is still their finest film and best adulation to ol’ H.P.), this fast-moving, unnerving, often deliciously droll and dark adventure is a genuine trip.
“It has been said, that it is not death, but dying, which is terrible,” wrote English novelist Henry Fielding, known for his picaresque narratives, and this is something that turned in my mind while watching the film. As The Endless depicts and presents members of the lunatic fringe and other unfortunates in their orbit, many aware on some level of the looping, reflexive fate they’ve unfairly been assigned, much of the fright is deeply felt in their disintegrating awareness.
Aaron and Justin play the part of detective, for us as well as each other, studying and being themselves studied in a creeping horror structure, strung along by cult members like Tim (Tate Ellington) and Anna (Callie Hernandez), who, along with many of the others seem to fabricate or obfuscate what’s really going down in the desert. The Endless, as it all unravels and unspools, proves to be intellectually dazzling, supremely sinister, and uniquely strange.
There’s no one making films quite like Benson and Moorhead, who seem so well-suited to the manufacture of the juicy setup, the buddy-buddy banter, the allure of the forbidden, the draw of the dark, and the suggestion and then some of what just might be beyond. This is, of course, what horror fans really want, with no skimping of the fun stuff, and that’s exactly what The Endless promises and makes good on.
Taste of Cinema Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.