Wikipedia Description: “The Endless is a 2017 American science fiction horror film directed, produced by and starring Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead…()…The film tells the story of two brothers (Benson and Moorhead) who visit an alleged cult they formerly belonged to.”
I put this on the list after reading some good film festival reviews, and then totally forgot about it when it actually came out. I always meant to get round to it because I was a big fan of the director’s second feature, Spring (2014), which played like a cross between Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) mashed together with a Lovecraft-inspired body horror picture.
Why I took it off the list
I decided to finally watch it because I was in the mood for something horror and a bit strange, sitting at home in the middle of a thunderstorm. When I started the film, I didn’t realize (or remember) it was a semi-related sequel to their first film, Resolution (2012), which I also have on my list and also remember getting great reviews. I realized this in the middle of the film and had to look up the Wikipedia page (more on that later).
Spoilers: Nope! I may include spoilers in some reviews but not in this one. If I do include spoilers, I’ll give you fair warning.
Review of The Endless
One thing that Benson and Moorehead absolutely nail in The Endless is a disconcerting atmosphere that somehow mixes together claustrophobia and intense disorientation, despite the fact that most of the film takes place outdoors, and, essentially, in a large field. That has to be applauded.
The exact creepiness of the hippie complex the two brothers at the center of the story find themselves back in is hard to pin down. The camp is situated on a beautiful private estate surrounded by fields and woods for as far as the eye can see. The people seem friendly and not-all-that cultish. In fact, they’re all pretty youthful and happy.
But hints of unease had already made themselves known to the brothers on the way back to their former home: strangely-shaped rock formations that seem to defy gravity itself begin to pop up along the side of the road as they drive by.
These awesomely-designed omens of doom become more frequent as the brothers re-acquaint themselves with their former home, and even play an intriguing part in the story as the film goes on.
I think to say too much about the plot would spoil the chance to discover its twists for yourself. I will say the realism the film grounds itself in is definitely impressive, because when the film turns into wilder territory, it definitely surprises, and you feel the dread of the situation alongside the characters.
This is helped to an impressive degree by the lead actors, Benson and Moorehead themselves. Benson in particular is sympathetic and believable as the older brother trying to hold on to reason as increasingly inexplicable things begin to affect the area and the members of the community.
Tate Ellington makes a strong impression with a subtle performance as the leader of the cult, Hal, a seemingly normal guy who goes from boyishly charming to menacing in a heartbeat.
The visuals of the film are also gorgeous, with most of the action shot in a kind of twilight haze that makes you feel probably as woozy as the characters do.
One thing that niggled me about the film was the feeling that I was missing something in some of the character interactions and references.
Then, I realized about half-way through that I was watching a kind of semi-sequel to the directors’ first film, Resolution, and decided to check if there was anything from the first film’s plot I should know to better ‘get’ this one.
It turns out it’s barely connected, so I didn’t have to worry, but there are still two recurring characters from The Endless who had full arcs in Resolution, so I couldn’t shake the feeling that I definitely should have watched it first!
Final score: 7/10 (might have been more if I had seen Resolution first!)
Worth checking out? Yes. It’s not for everybody, and it’s not Spring, but fans of low-key sci-fi mysteries like Donnie Darko (2001), Primer (2004), or Sound of My Voice (2011) should definitely apply. Maybe after checking out Resolution first!
The Endless (2017)
Written by Justin Benson
Check out my next review to find out my opinion on another recent flick that successfully manages to blend an outdoor daytime setting with uneasy tension.