Review of ‘The Endless’ (2017)

Bob Fynan

Following 2015’s romantic monster film Spring, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead have returned to the curious, Lovecraftian myth they created in 2012’s Resolution. Justin and Aaron (played by the almost one-man-band crew of Benson and Moorhead) are survivors of a ‘UFO death cult’ grinding out a dreary existence since their childhood escape. Aaron’s rose-tinted memories of the brothers contented and healthy life at the cult’s camp is piqued when he receives a cruddy videotape apparently announcing the cult members coming ascension (suicide). Aaron convinces his reluctant brother to take a trip down memory lane to cult land to see what’s going on. Upon arriving back at Camp Arcadia the brothers discover that the cult members they remember from two decades ago have not aged a day. From there circumstances progress at a leisurely pace from the eeriness of bog standard groupthink to full-on bewilderment as the unknown and seemingly unknowable begins to assert itself.

This is a relatively small film that focuses on some interesting topics such as time, immortality and predestination. On balance it's more thought provoking sci-fi than terrifying horror, but a timeless fear does permeate this story, that being the fear of the unknown.

Camp Arcadia, the setting for the majority of the film lives up to its pastoral paradise namesake. Moorhead captures the beautiful landscape in dreamy, golden colours and the supernatural elements blend in and build discreetly as the film develops. But unlike a utopian paradise, this patch of earth is, for better or worse, controlled by the supernatural. It raises interesting questions about the amount of control that we have over our lives. Would you sign-up for an existence ultimately governed by some unknowable entity? And what conditions would you require to be content in that existence?  Perhaps you’d be happy with the promise of immortality but what if that also meant endlessly repeating past mistakes? And swap ‘entity’ for ‘deity’ and various religious examples demonstrate that many of us are willing to put up with all kinds of hardships and infringements on our personal liberty just so we can feel like we belong to something and avoid the reality of our random and relatively insignificant existence.

Apart from the thought provoking material, I did find the brothers relationship a tad simplistic. And my immediate reaction after the credits was that it distracted me from the more interesting elements of the film. I’m also pretty sure this film wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test and from memory there were 9 male compared to 3 female speaking parts. In spite of these issues this film has lingered in my thoughts since I saw it last week and I’ve enjoyed discussing it with others. I’ll certainly keep an eye out for what this talented pair produce next. And if you’re considering this one, be sure to also watch Benson and Moorhead’s earlier film, Resolution.