FILM REVIEW: THE ENDLESS
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are two of the most exciting creators working in genre film today. The duo has consistently delivered fantastic, utterly unique, genre-bending content. Their debut, RESOLUTION, was an ultra low-budget cabin-in-the-woods horror that was so brilliantly meta as to almost require multiple viewings. SPRING, their sophomore effort was a seamless, sincere blend of love story and creature feature. Even their short in V/H/S: VIRAL was part cult horror and part skate video, brimming with personality. I’m pleased to say their latest feature, THE ENDLESS, masterfully keeps this streak alive.
THE ENDLESS tells the story of two brothers who, when they were younger, escaped from a cult. The elder brother, Justin (played by Justin Benson) takes a clear parental role, clearly looking after the younger Aaron (Aaron Moorhead). Justin refers to the group they’ve left behind a decade earlier as a “UFO death cult,” a statement which seems to bristle Aaron. The two have not adapted well to life outside the cult. They struggle to support themselves, to make friends, to get dates, etc. It’s clear that the years since they’ve left have been difficult. So when one of the cult members sends them what appears to be a goodbye video, Aaron is eager to visit the group, seeking some sort of closure. Justin is reluctant, but yields, hoping it will be good for his brother.
When they return to the UFO death cult from which they apparently “escaped” years ago, it comes as a surprise that all of the cultists seem happy, wholesome, and harmless. The film smartly avoids even the trope of the protagonists just missing the warning signs. As the audience, we know that there must be horror, somewhere, but the cult really does seem… fine. They’re one big, well-adjusted family. Which is something Aaron has been desperately missing, in his life. Of course, he wants to stay with the cult, while Justin is adamantly opposed.
To say much more of the direction the story takes is to spoil things that are better left experienced fresh. The less you can know, going into the film, the better. You know that there is a cult, and that there is something more sinister at work (it is a horror film, after all). If you’re a fan of Benson and Moorhead’s previous work, you’ve likely noticed that despite on the surface being about monsters or supernatural forces, their previous films have also been surprisingly personal explorations of relationships. Friendship, in RESOLUTION, and a romantic relationship in SPRING. So it’s not spoiling anything to tell you that THE ENDLESS is about family.
The two brothers in THE ENDLESS have nobody else. Trying to balance their own individual happiness with the responsibility of being each other’s only family is a burden they both carry. That dynamic is at the core of THE ENDLESS. It’s something that elevates the story beyond its moving parts. Benson and Moorhead have managed to make a genre film that is just as much about UFO death cults as it is about family. A brilliant meta horror narrative with honest to god heart. A film where the relationship between two brothers is every bit as captivating as finding out what’s in the lake, or who sent that mysterious tape. It’s a film only Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead could make. And it’s a film that this reviewer hopes will go down in the canons of genre film classics.
“THE ENDLESS masterfully blends horror and heart”