Ah, cheap micro-budgeted filmmakers. How often they go wrong, but when they go right, magic happens.
Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson are a writer/director pair that have managed to make a handful of movies on virtually no money. They are models to be admired. The Endless is the first of their films I’ve seen, and I think it’s a wonderful example of what a smart script, tight direction, and solid acting can accomplish even without any real financial backing.
The two play the movie’s two main characters (Aaron and Justin, oddly enough) are brothers who escaped from a death cult ten years before. They live a meager existence cleaning apartments and eating ramen when a package arrives with a video tape from the camp they left. Prompted by that and their general miserable existence, Aaron convinces Justin that they should visit only for a day.
They go and life is ideal. Everyone’s happy. Everyone’s useful and doing what they want to do. It seems so much better than their memories and their fears led them to believe, but there are eerie things happening around them. They see a man, marching around the area with strictly determined focus that borders on hostility. There’s a woman who cries for her missing husband. There’s a lake where they go to fish and Justin is scared beyond reason at the sight of something he sees underwater when he goes diving. There’s something wrong with this life, and no one can explain why.
The movie actually begins with an H.P. Lovecraft quote, so going through all of these motions with that in the back of your mind makes the end point rather clear. There’s a horror that cannot be explained or reasoned lurking around every corner.
This is when we get introduced to the trippier part of the story. I don’t think it holds together completely (it might, but it feels like there are a few holes in the logic placed there for dramatic purposes), but it overall adds to the pervasive sense of impending doom in such a great way. The writer/director pair understand how to use images and especially sound design to heighten tension. And that’s really what drives the movie forward through the end. That feeling of dread and tension that just keeps building until its climax.
On top of that, characterization is wonderful. The two brothers not only feel like brothers (with all the minor bickering that that entails) but they also have completely different sets of beliefs that set them apart and make them distinct. Even the most minor of characters (like the gun tweeker and his friend whom we see for about 5 minutes) have a breadth of characterization that makes them far more than merely exposition dumps.
There’s so much to admire in this film. I loved it. Moorehead and Benson are terrific talents, and I hope they are able to maintain the same level of creative ingenuity and execution as financiers discover them and give them larger bundles of cash with which to make movies.
Netflix Rating: 5/5
Quality Rating: 3.5/4
7 thoughts on “The Endless”
I was very impressed by this film as well. I’ve downloaded (but not yet seen) their earlier film, Resolution, which seems like it takes a similar path.
Do you remember enough of it to say whether I’m right or wrong about some details of the time loop stuff not making sense? I’m thinking of the guy who we say hanging himself but was also walking around.
I don’t remember the specifics of it, but my impression was that the loops were not contemporaneous or even similar in construction (tent guy’s loop was only a few seconds, for example), and that they tended to overlap each other coming in a circular or spiral pattern from wherever the controlling entity was located.
I also got the impression that the entity was itself not affected by time, much like 2001’s aliens, but was kind of “amused” by this aspect of human existence. It played with people the way a boy could play with snails, placing some far from the water and others closer and just watching them go back toward the water.
I really should watch it again, I haven’t seen it in months.
I watched this movie, and the other two by this director, hoping they would be as good as this one.
They weren’t but this one is still good. Not sure if you or some other moron piqued my interest in it.
The time loop mechanics made sense to me, but the bigger theme that resonated with me is: what do you do when you’re powerless, playing out a role for a god who wants you to worship it or be tortured for eternity? Do you go along? Do you try to better yourself? Do you fight, even if all the fighting you can do is to die on your terms?
It’s not perfect but it has good characters and good themes and that’s more than most movies manage. Sadly.
Yeah, my issues with the time loops didn’t kill the movie for me. The mechanics of the certain elements weren’t the overall point. I’m pretty sure they’re there simply for dramatic effect, which is okay but I would have preferred if they made a bit more sense.
And it wasn’t me who recommended it. Someone else in the comments did. It just took me forever to get around to starting it.