The expression “You can never go home again” refers to the inability to recapture a time and place — one that may only exist when seen through rose coloured glasses — but if your home was a UFO Death Cult, that may not be such a bad thing. Filmmaking team Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead return to the sci-fi/horror genre with The Endless, a bizarre tale of two brothers trying to achieve some closure while dealing with powerful forces surrounding them. Will a valuable lesson be learned about clinging to the past, or will they be horribly trapped in an unending horror? Only time will tell.
Brothers Justin (Justin Benson) and Aaron (Aaron Moorhead) were raised in a compound in the hills of Southern California, their mother having died in a tragic car accident and the two young boys being taken in by Camp Arcadia. We learn that a decade ago, the two brothers had escaped what Justin called a “Death Cult,” but Aaron, the younger brother, has different recollections of his time at Camp Arcadia, and when a video cassette shows up with a message from the camp, Aaron becomes super psyched to go back, at least for a visit. Justin reluctantly agrees, what with Aaron pointing out that their current life completely sucks, so the two hop in their car and head for the hills.
Things start off nice enough, with the brothers being given a warm welcome from everybody at the camp, even camp leader Hal (Tate Ellington) doesn’t seem to be holding a grudge, which is nice considering that after “escaping,” Justin announced to the press that Arcadia was a UFO Death Cult that practiced ritual castration; this seems rather big of him. As the visit extends, with Aaron constantly badgering his brother about staying one more day, things start to get a little weird … well, weirder. To start, it seems that none of the members have aged a day in the decade since the brothers left — Aaron tries to blow that off under the explanation of “Clean living” — but it certainly doesn’t explain flocks of birds that can be seen flying in weird circular formations, or that Arcadia member Shane (Shane Brady) performs magic tricks that are clearly way beyond mere sleight-of-hand. Then there is the night the brothers join the group in a “team building exercise,” a late night tug-of-war against a rope that ascends into the dark night sky — who is at the other end is never revealed — and there is a lone shack with the massive 19th-century looking padlock that just oozes foreboding. Add to all that the fact that the environment around the camp constantly reveals one inexplicable phenomenon after another, from multiple moons to a mirrored landscape, it becomes clear things are not what they seem.
This film goes the slow burn route here, with the story dropping in clues and weirdness at just the right intervals to keep the viewer hooked, but it’s when Justin starts pushing for answers, and Hal’s chalkboard physics-scribbling being all but meaningless, that the true horror of the situation becomes apparent. I don’t want to get into spoilers here — and trying to explain the plot would be rather a difficult thing as The Endless isn’t one of those plot-centric stories — but if you are a fan of films like Groundhog Day and In the Mouth of Madness, you will probably get a kick out of this little flick, as you get a nice mixture of time anomalies as well as mysterious dark forces, all working perfectly to keep the viewer off-balance and intrigued.
The Endless is one of those independent low-budget films that renews one’s faith in the film industry. I’m all for Hollywood blockbusters, full of superheroes and exploding planets, but I love these smaller films that often tackle bigger, more interesting themes, and with this film, Benson and Moorhead have created a world that simply bursts with its own rich mythology — which it doesn’t feel the need to worry about explaining — as well as giving us characters we can truly relate to and a cast of actors who all provide stellar performances. The Endless is a film that will still be sinking in well after the lights have come on and you are home safe in bed … or are you?
The Endless (2017)
Movie Rank - 7.5/10
Creeping dread, bizarre happenings and unimaginable horrors are just three elements that make up Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s sci-fi/horror film The Endless, a low budget masterpiece well worth seeking out.