THE ENDLESS gets 8/10 Cult film

Director Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Starring Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Tate Ellington

8/10

The Endless works best the less you know about the story, a gradual unfolding of mysteries centered around two brothers who don’t have much more than each other and how that can keep you going but also fill you with resentment. A low budget film that feels very low-key but gradually grows more epic as time goes on. The production values of a B-grade genre film matched with the mindboggling premises of a David Lynch or Alex Garland film.

Director and producers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead play the siblings Justin and Aaron. They’re survivors of a cult that Aaron got them out of years ago fearing an impending mass suicide. Life has not been good since their escape though; they work menial jobs and never seem to have found much fulfillment. They live to work and they struggle to keep their car running, meet people or even buy food on their current wages. Aaron is the responsible one, keeping them going and hoping for a better life and so he has a beard. Just once I’d like to see the alpha male in modern movies be clean shaven and his counterpart be bearded but I digress. Justin receives a tape from the cult and starts to pine for the quality of life they had when they were there. Against Aaron’s better judgment he agrees to go back with Justin for some closure.

As soon as they arrive at the camp grounds of the cult, strange acts of nature appear and while the cult members are friendly there is tension there from the past that is only gradually revealed. Part of unraveling both the personal mysteries and the larger one at the centre of what goes on within the cult is part of the fun. It has to be said that part of the momentum of the film lessens when some of those mysteries are revealed and it becomes harder to follow how to navigate what these characters are facing. The finale is a little on the nose about how personal feelings feed into solving the crisis. Yet the themes for the film are strong and relevant to this day and age. How much free will would you be willing to give up for a sense of comfort?

Performances are strong across the board, in particular Callie Hernandez (Blair Witch and Alien: Covenant) effortlessly plays notes of warmth and danger as one of the cult members, Anna. Benson and Moorhead display perfectly how brothers communicate; bickering at times but also looking for the other to be there throughout. There are some special effects in the film, the majority of which look fantastic with only a handful of fire effects obviously fake but still done well. One thing to admire about the filmmakers is the way they get tension out of the little seen and the smallest effect. A rope being tugged by something in the dark raises more alarms than anything shown. Conversations between characters are just as tense for what is left unsaid as much as what is hinted at.

This is the third feature from the duo that avoided going full Hollywood big budget and just asked themselves what story they wanted to tell and what was required for that. It is interesting to note that the premise of a people entering an area that involves a mystery that gradually gets revealed is done all the time with much bigger budgets and stars and does not entertain or stand a chance of turning a profit the way this movie has. These are definitely two filmmakers to watch and ones who prove that making an entertaining film requires passion and skill a lot more than it requires money.

LLOYD MARKEN

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