Film Review – The Endless
Say, are you looking for a low-budget mind-bender but spilled orange juice on your Primer DVD, rendering it unplayable? Boy do I have the answer for you. Well..maybe not answers exactly, as directing duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Resolution, Spring) seem more keen on letting you do that legwork, but their newest effort, the uncannily entertaining The Endless, just might scratch that itch for you.
Benson and Moorhead star as brothers, now ten years separated from the “UFO death cult” they chose to walk away from. The impending years appear to have been rough, as they struggle for steady employment and debate which ramen flavor will tide them over to the next, depressing evening.
Aaron (they use their real first names, lending an eerie authenticity to the proceedings) receives a mysterious video from Camp Arcadia, the stomping grounds of their old community, and after reminiscing on old times (and decent meals), convinces Justin they’re due for a visit.
At first glance, Camp Arcadia seems almost too good to be true. A sort of hipster commune where they brew their own beer, karaoke and speak in frustrating, grand metaphors.
Justin is wary, protective of Aaron’s inherent vulnerability. Then, seemingly unexplainable things begin to occur on the campground. It starts small enough. The camp’s leader (although don’t go calling him that) demonstrates a magic trick to Justin that appears defy the laws of physics. But how to account for the appearance of a second moon in the skyline? This is hastily explained away as a trick of the eye, similar to Northern Lights, but does that really check out?
The Endless introduces these elements with subdued zeal, allowing us to form our own attachments and theories before gleefully pulling the rug from under us, then does it again. And again.
Sound frustrating? It’s not. The relationship between the two brothers grounds the more fantastical elements, and accounts for a few good jokes to relieve the mounting tension. One runner sees Justin (and later Aaron) calling out the community’s whackadoo prophesying as “definitely culty,” speaking as an audience surrogate, no doubt.
To reveal anything more would be doing The Endless a disservice, but heck, I can’t help myself so here’s one more to hook you: If a fellow Arcadian fondly recalls cuddling you as child, yet appears to be your same age, if not younger, maybe refuse that second glass of Hefewiezen and get the hell outta dodge?
Once the reveals start coming, be sure to take notes. Even writing as a person who DID take notes, though, I can’t promise they’re going have you sorted by the final scene. In fact, before the credit roll had even ended I found myself on a subreddit imploring for answers my feeble brain couldn’t formulate on its own. Turns out everyone has their own pet theory, parsing clues not seen the first or even second time. Looks like it won’t be my last visit to Camp Arcadia.
What Benson and Moorhead managed to accomplish with the budget they had is a true feat. A head-scratcher of a cult-sci-fi romp you won’t soon forget. Or do I mean remember.