Directed By: Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson
“You come to the woods with your hair combed forward gelled. You’re all hunched over like some kind of James Bond with scoliosis trying to hide a boner.”
Cults. We’re fascinated with them (At least I am, I can’t talk about you. Maybe you hate them) yet they still feel a little undersold when it comes to horror movies. For my money there’s nothing that’s more unnerving than a group of people blindly following a dangerous leader, unwilling to listen to reason until it literally destroys them, but enough about Brexit. In 2018 cults don’t seem so unusual anymore, or unnatural. We see them everywhere even if it’s not about men with blank fixed stares a yoga-instructor’s sense of fashion telling you when you can and can’t eat.
Some of these things interest The Endless but most don’t. This isn’t an exploration of how cults can convert people or how followers will blindly acquiesce with a command, no matter how outrageous it is. Instead The Endless is about the damage wrought on people who found a great sense of community and then what happens when they lose it.
Justin and Aaron (Played here by the flmmakers, uh, Justin and Aaron) are brothers who, ten years previously, got out of a UFO worshipping death cult (In Justin’s words). Then one day Aaron receives a package in the mail. It’s from one of the members who informs them that the end is coming, causing Justin – the older of the two – to joke that he was right about the cult all along, he was just off by ten years. Aaron has a different view of them though and his memories of Camp Arcadia and their life there are more pleasant, happier and warmer than that of his brother. Spurred by the need for closure and the hard life they’ve lived since getting out (They work crappy jobs and only have one another for company), Justin complies with his brother’s request to go back to Camp Arcadia one last time.
Almost immediately the movie starts setting up questions and the answers don’t quite matter as much. I’m not sure if everything really quite holds together for the Reddit crowd, but it’s all just window dressing for a tale that’s about trauma, family, free will and letting go of the past as much as it is about a malevolent God that lives in the trees. The thing I like the most about it is that it takes all of this in its stride. Nothing appears to phase the brothers too much, or anyone else for that matter, and it was a welcome breath of fresh air. The characters just accept the reality they’re in and thankfully it spares us sixty minutes of characters asking “what’s going on?”.
What’s interesting with The Endless is what doesn’t happen just as much as what does. It’s to their credit that they take what we think we know about cult stories and twist them enough that the movie stays surprising. Not neccessarily with big twists and revelations, but more in how it keeps unfolding in almost dreamlike vignettes. Rest assured this is more sci-fi than it is horror though there are some existential ramifications that might keep you up at night if you give them too much thought, but it doesn’t stop the movie from being effective.
I had a great time with The Endless and I’m sure you will too, but I will say is that it’s worth seeking out their earlier movie, Resolution, which is pretty great in its own right. I wouldn’t say it’s essential and I don’t think that The Endless falls apart without it, but the experience is enhanced if you have a familiarity with their work.
So that’s night one down and alright so this wasn’t exactly sending me reaching for the lights, but I blame mischaracterising on streaming services than I do the movie itself. Luckily for you, The Endless is great any time of the year.