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The Endless (Movie Review)

The Endless (Movie Review)
04.13.2018by: Jake Dee
8 10

PLOT: Ten years after fleeing the grip of a UFO Death Cult – tight-knit brothers Aaron and Justin return to the secluded campground to bid a final farewell. However, once there, the lure of an impending cataclysm may prove too difficult to escape from this time around.

REVIEW: Anyone privy to the strange and seductive siren of a 2015 movie called SPRING ought to know full well the promising potential of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead – the filmmaking jack of all trades behind the ingeniously wondrous new million-dollar sci-fi thriller THE ENDLESS. If you aren’t abreast, take note, as these two budding visionaries cannot be, nor deserve to be, too far away from breakout mainstream success. While both share directorial and acting duties in their impressive new outing, responsibilities are divvied to credit Benson as writer and editor, Moorehead as cinematographer, and the sum of their collective toolkits have yielded another distinctly engrossing stint of sci-fi shock and awe. With a creatively-conjured alternate reality that hews to its own set of rules and laws, with a well established and sustained sense of impending dread, with strong lead characters we willingly want to see safely through, THE ENDLESS is an admirably mystifying micro-budgeted must-see!

Brothers Aaron and Justin endure a life of squalor in what appears to be Echo Park, California. Working as menial house-cleaners, eating Top Ramen on the regular, one day the somewhat reformed, still socially awkward brothers receive a videotape from Camp Arcadia – the UFO Death Cult they successfully broke free of ten years prior. The video shows a gal named Anna (Callie Hernandez) bidding farewell before what’s implied to be a mass suicide ritual at the campground. Feeling responsible for his younger brother’s unhappy station in life, Justin agrees, against his better judgment, to return to Camp Arcadia for one day and one night so that Aaron can enjoy a decent meal at the very least, and say one last goodbye at the very most. This seems a deeply dumb decision at first, and may even prove to be down the line, but for now, it appears to be exactly what Aaron needs for his own wellbeing. Even when Justin wants to leave, which he does for a short span, he knows saving his brother’s life is worth more than losing his own.

Upon arrival, the brothers are not met with animus for escaping and publicly badmouthing the camp many moons ago, but instead with curious kindness. Cult leader Hal (Tate Ellington) greets the two with a smile and soft-spoken demeanor, reintroducing the brothers to the rest of the faithful votaries. Yet, no sooner than night falls, a host of odd, quasi-supernatural occurrences take hold. First, none of the members have seemed to have aged in a decade. And speaking of many moons, the sky above the camp appears to be equipped with three of them. Moons that is. Living off the land, making their own home-brewed beer and red-weed to smoke (a flower), it isn’t long before the brothers begin to notice that the laws of Earthly physics as they know it have begun to cease. An invisible, omnipotent force seems to be governing a perpetual time-loop that keeps the members of the cult in their own circular orbit. The members bow to such, consider it a deity, and as a whole host of retrieved videotapes and photographs depict, accept the admonition that an apocalyptic even is imminent. Should Justin and Aaron stay or book?!

If this all sounds confounding, trust that the movie isn’t nearly as nebulous as the measures taken here to sidestep spoilers. Actually, it’s is this very air of mystery and maddening sense of the unknown that makes, at least the first hour, almost impossible to pry your eyes from. Dramatically, the movie is driven by the cleaved motivations of the two brothers. Justin wants to leave, Aaron wants to stay, and it’s only in the slow revelation of what this invisible force has in its grand design that we begin to understand which side of the tug-of-war is prudent to pull on. Granted, the second half of the film meanders a bit into ponderous, less focused territory, and loses a bit of its sense of unbridled intrigue in so doing, but the setup is so strong and the investment made to unearth the truth of this enigmatic cult-following is too nagging to dismiss. To wit, there’s such an unbroken tone of impending doom, of a frightening revelation or a doomsday event of some kind that the anticipatory anxiety begins to gnaw on your every nerve.

But the feat worth extolling most is how all of this has been achieved on a mere $1 million budget. With limited resources like time and money, you must be crafty and inventive in order to make due. Benson and Moorehead have imagined a quite a unique experience in that regard, and imbue such with a constant vibration of menace that hangs with you the entire time. Technically, the directing duo and its FX team have opted for a less-is-more approach as it relates to some of the supernatural elements, wisely so, as it adds to the suspense level, but also never shows the potential limits of its hand. What we are actually shown onscreen we believe to be true, for the most part, which, no matter how head-scratching and outlandish parts get at times, keeps it all grounded in reality. Its own established reality! Also, while lamenting a bit of a languid pace in the second half above, it’s rather good to see such a micro-budgeted movie that doesn’t merely crawl to 80 odd minutes and call itself a feature. No, far more lasting and well-rounded, THE ENDLESS clocks in a good 1 hour and 48 minutes or so, hardly skimping its material along the way.

All this is to say, without hesitation, THE ENDLESS is worth plunging into. It’s worth seeing if you’re a fan of twisty time-loop sci-fi thrillers, it’s worth seeing if you’re fans of Benson and Moorehead’s prior flicks RESOLUTION and SPRING (the former of which is actually revisited here in a somewhat unsuccessful meta-plot contrivance), it’s worth seeing if you’re fans of well executed indie cinema made on a shoestring, or brotherhood dramas, it’s even worth checking out if you have some sort of predilection for creepy cults and/or movies about them. The story’s cryptically intriguing, the air of unease hangs thick, and the characters are compelling to track. Hell, give it awhile, THE ENDLESS may prove timeless as well!

Extra Tidbit: THE ENDLESS opens in select theaters Friday, April 13th.
Source: AITH

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