June 21, 2018

Strange Doings in THE ENDLESS

Starring Justin Benson, Aaron Moorehead, Callie Hernandez, Tate Ellington, Lew Temple, James Jordan, Shane Brady, Kira Powell. Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead. (2017/111 min).


Review by Stinky the Destroyer🙀

My youngest daughter, Lucy, is expanding her horizons. Good for her.

I introduced her to horror movies at an early age. While it remains her favorite genre, she's become increasingly interested in science-fiction of the dark, brain-bending variety, perhaps due to the horror elements inherent in some of them. Since she really enjoyed recent films like Annihilation, Arrival and the underappreciated Life, The Endless sounded right up her alley.

What makes The Endless all-the-more impressive is that it was made for a fraction of the budget as those aforementioned titles. Ambitious films with limited resources must rely almost exclusively on the strength of their stories, and in their third collaboration, the directing team of Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead deliver an intriguing premise that defies spoiler-free description.

Casting themselves in the lead roles, Benson & Moorehead play - oddly enough - Justin and Aaron, two brothers whose lives have never fully returned to normal after escaping the grip of a UFO Death Cult. For closure, they return ten years later. They are welcomed back with open arms, yet something is amiss about their old friends, including the fact they've apparently not aged. Unusual, inexplicable events keep occurring - and re-occurring - in and around the camp. Still, Aaron wants to remain because he was always happier here than in the real world. Justin, on the other hand, becomes increasingly unnerved when he learns what's happening and the devastating implications of staying.

"Hey, I can't find the end of this rope. That must mean it's ENDLESS! Get it?"
To actually reveal what's going on would spoil the film's many surprises, which often lead us in one direction before throwing a wrench in our expectations (in the best possible way). The Endless reveals its secrets slowly, less concerned with making all the puzzle pieces fit than raising questions it sometimes prefers not to answer...not directly, anyway. The film's relative ambiguity is one of its biggest narrative strengths.

Even though the story and pace seem occasionally rambling, there is actually quite a lot happening in nearly every scene. But it isn't until after everything is said and done that we think back to a particular 'throwaway' moment and suddenly understand its importance.

Complex without ever becoming baffling, The Endless is dark sci-fi - with a few dashes of horror - that belies its relatively low budget with a great deal of imagination and creativity. Despite a deliberate pace, Lucy and I remained intrigued the entire time. And since the film doesn't play all its narrative cards the way we expected, we had a lot to talk about afterwards.

FEATURETTES - "Making Of" (a pretty extensive documentary); "Behind the Scenes" (in two parts, including outtakes); "VFX Breakdown"
"RIDICULOUS EXTRAS" - A variety of irreverent segments, including "auditions" and the directors discussing a previous abandoned project.

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