Two brothers return to the cult they fled from years ago to discover that the group’s beliefs may be saner than they once thought.
I can’t remember the last time I have enjoyed a movie so fully as I did while watching The Endless. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the directing duo responsible for 2014’s Spring have created another wickedly absorbing tale about two brothers who have begun to question their credulous stance after leaving a UFO cult. Exploring themes of control, family, and the disastrous cycles we somehow trap ourselves in, The Endless delivers a trippy, thought-provoking tale with an elegance that would make Rod Serling tip his hat.
Justin (Justin Benson) and Aaron (Aaron Moorhead) have escaped a loopy UFO cult situated somewhere in the sprawling hills between L.A. and San Diego. Living paycheck to paycheck the two are struggling, working cleaning jobs, and trying to convince themselves that escaping the mind control of the compound down south was a good idea. Then they get a taped message in the mail from one of the members of the cult that, for all intents and purposes, seems to suggest that this cult was on to something. Curious as all hell, Aaron and Justin decide to go back for an overnight visit. Seriously, what could it hurt? They are both fully aware that they made the right decision in departing. They just want to see. Right?
“…Aaron and Justin decide to go back for an overnight visit. Seriously, what could it hurt?”
Arriving at the compound everything is exactly as they remembered it. While Justin is far more skeptical and reserved, Aaron seems to slip right back into cult-mode. Not noticeably at first, but Aaron first suggests they stay an extra day, then another, then still another. Like putting on an old shoe, Aaron has been reminded of the comfort that the close-knit community brought him. Justin, however, remains bitterly skeptical despite now being able to at least get along with cult leader Hal (Tate Ellington).
Has the ascension happened yet? Is it about to happen? The clues come in slowly, yet they are there. Bizarre things begin to happen. Cult members begin to indicate, in one-off conversations, that they are far more miserable than they let on, clouds of birds begin to spiral in the sky in tandem, mysterious items are found at the bottom of a nearby lake, and how in the hell are they now seeing not one, not even two, but three moons in the sky at night?
“…a slow drip of confounding developments.”
Part of the delicious joy of watching this film is by allowing it to unfold. Benson’s script, that he also co-directs with his real-life sibling, is a slow drip of confounding developments. Everything is kept very present, honest, and genuine. Nothing is played FOR mystery or with the intent of tricking the audience. Because of this, we feel we are on the same puzzling journey as the two protagonists. Even more satisfying yet, Benson doesn’t cheat. We get an answer.
What if everything that you were told growing up was real? What if the beliefs and fears that kept you trapped in a specific pattern were actually shielding you from a far more sinister outcome? These are the existential profundities that are pondered to great effect in this elegantly crafted film. Benson and Moorhead again provide another example of their ability to deliver a cinematic experience that is worth your time. The Endless is fiendishly effective and engrossing film.
The Endless is worth Full Price (****)
Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)