REVIEW

The Endless

OR (A Cult Film About A Cult)

Author

Ankit Ojha




WORDICT

Outstanding!






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BYTE THE BULLET

An endlessly fascinating blend of horror, science-fiction, and drama. Terrific.


Ankit Ojha

June 29, 2018

Plot

Two brothers take an unusual trip down memory lane when they reconnect with a cult they fled from years ago, and it's not the cult they thought it out to be. Except, things are a whole lot worse, and they need to get out before they're consumed by it.


The Endless is the third movie from directorial duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, whose last two films have collectively broken from the usual tropes and trappings of horror for dramas that have been comparatively more dynamic and satisfying in storytelling than a lot of horror films. Right from Benson and Moorhead’s breakout debut in the criminally underknown Resolution (2013), the duo is known for bending—and sometimes even breaking—the many unwritten rules of Horror 101. That isn’t to say traditional horror as a storytelling medium doesn’t stand a chance, but it sure has given courage to leading mainstream filmmakers to see their projects through till their fruition. But I digress.

Look, I drew a peoples, mommy!

Aaron Moorhead stars and co-directs The Endles, a Well Go USA Entertainment, Snowfort Pictures, and Love & Death Productions release.

Much like their sophomore Before-Sunrise-meets-Lovecraft hybrid Spring, The Endless takes its viewers yet again through a tour of some of their inspiration’s many obsessions—isolation, the fragility of mental sanity, and existential nihilism, among a few other things. In trademark fashion, the film explores the act of running away from civilization; except for a significant reversal: the two brothers are traveling back to a cult they broke out of years ago. Trauma has an unusual role to play here, especially in that there’s a lot that a difference in a narrative can do to people. The younger brother Aaron (Aaron Moorhead) remembers his life in the cult as one full of sunshine and good food. The older one’s memories of it are starkly different.
What [Justin and Aaron] pick up on when they’re back in Camp Arcadia is strongly dictated by the way they felt about the cult before they fled.
Their polarizing reactions to the McGuffin that sets their misadventure in motion—a seemingly innocuous tape sent right from within the cult—are vital to how the story unfolds. What the pair pick up on when they’re back in Camp Arcadia is strongly dictated by the way they felt about the cult before they fled. The older one picks up on some strongly discomforting events around them—like a walking loner who avoids Justin (Justin Benson) on his jogs, or the creepy smiling dude in a blinding-white shirt that just never seems to crease, for example—and the younger one finds acceptance and freedom the real world can’t give him. Aaron has a harmless crush on one of the cult’s members, and actively participates in its many rites, as it gives him a purpose “the real world” could never provide him.

I See Undead People

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's "The Endless" is a Well Go USA Entertainment, Snowfort Pictures, and Love & Death Productions release.

The most refreshing thing The Endless does, however, is that it doesn’t antagonize the active members of Arcadia. Sure, there’s a general sense of glazed-eye emotional discomfort—and boy, the creeps are stellar when the protagonists are around humans with vacant stares—but they’re just ordinary people. They’ve all got fears, needs, and the likes. Hal (Tate Ellington; ABC's Quantico), the “leader” (or not, because the camp claims it doesn’t have a leader), possesses a satisfying, almost human, level of multidimensional nature, highly unlike Martha Marcy May Marlene’s (2011) predatory Patrick (John Hawkes), or Colonia Dignidad’s Paul Schäfer, reprised with a chilling accuracy by Michael Nyqvist in the 2016 drama Colonia.
[...] the film wasn’t trying to stick to the traditional rules of a horror narrative at all; it’s always wanted to be more than just that. And it is.
The horror in this film depends highly on its setup of a sinister atmosphere—and for a good reason. The camerawork wants you to think its narrative is omniscient, but Benson and Moorhead cheat a little by throwing in some perspective, thanks to the terrific soundscapes of Jimmy “The Album Leaf” LaValle, whose surreal ambient sounds range from dreamy to nightmarish with transitions so smooth you wouldn't know when your journey swerved from a stairway to heaven to the highway to hell. Everything about this film is so incredibly well thought out you can’t but wonder the mental energy the duo spent on attention to detail while world-building. The performances in this film range from understated ambiguity to absolute brilliance, but look through the layers of the vagueness and you’ll find it was all for a reason. Then again, the film wasn’t trying to stick to the traditional rules of a horror narrative at all; it’s always wanted to be more than just that. And it is.

"Uh, why are we here again?"

(L-R) Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead star in and co-direct The Endless, a Well Go USA Entertainment, Snowfort Pictures, and Love & Death Productions release.

Just how much viewers love The Endless though really depends on their personal tastes. It’s a horror film that subverts most traditional conventions for an experience as diverse as it is satisfying. In trademark Benson-Moorhead fashion, the film is a genre-fluid experience that boldly chooses not to be bound by horror’s restrictions, instead of giving its viewers the opportunity to relate to the emotion that hits home the hardest. Sure, if we’re to take anything from the outraged response to Colin Trevorrow’s The Book of Henry, genre-benders will always be ahead of their time. That, however, can never take away from what a masterfully crafted love-letter to Lovecraft this is, apart from being a pitch-perfect film with the kind of conviction you don’t often see in movies these days.

VERDICT

If you're familiar with Moorhead-Benson's trademark genre-flexible narratives though, watching The Endless is going to be a piece of cake with a cherry on top. If you're not, however, walk into it not expecting what you want out of horror as a genre, but anticipating what the duo want to contribute to it, or how far they want to subvert from it. The result? An endlessly satisfying, multidimensional movie that is unrestricted by the boundaries of a single genre's trappings that needs to be seen and supported as much as possible. Highly recommended.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

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Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Plot

Two brothers take an unusual trip down memory lane when they reconnect with a cult they fled from years ago, and it's not the cult they thought it out to be. Except, things are a whole lot worse, and they need to get out before they're consumed by it.

Release Year

Rated

Unrated

ELITE METER
0
%

Plot

Two brothers take an unusual trip down memory lane when they reconnect with a cult they fled from years ago, and it's not the cult they thought it out to be. Except, things are a whole lot worse, and they need to get out before they're consumed by it.

Release Year

Rated

Unrated

ELITE METER
0
%