TRIBECA REVIEW: The Endless
– By Stephen Harper
In 2014 filmmakers Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson gave the world one of the most gorgeous movies of recent times in SPRING. It was a beautiful, surreal love story that weaved a romantic tale with Lovecraftian surrealism. It also clarified that the directing duo weren’t a one hit wonder after they’re sensational debut feature RESOLUTION, which was released two years previously.
I can’t emphasise enough how underrated RESOLUTION is. I’m still surprised how many people haven’t yet seen the movie, but trying to describe its plot line can be a bit of a tough job because of it’s complexity. I’ve watched RESOLUTION three times and still hadn’t fully figured it out. At first I believed the filmmakers had brilliantly left it for the audience to come up with their own personal evaluations, but after multiple viewings I was convinced there had to be more to it, there are questions that definitely needed answering.
Although I admit I hadn’t fully figured out RESOLUTION I still adored the movie. I think because I hadn’t figured it out was one of the main reasons I like it so much. I love movies that step out of the box, have something to say and are kinda weird.
When Moorhead & Benson (interviewed by us in 2014 HERE) followed RESOLUTION up with SPRING and it was a completely different beast altogether, I was thrilled that it proved the two directors were the real deal. SPRING still incorporates all their strange and surreal traits, but branched off into another direction altogether.
So, when the duo announced they were creating their next feature THE ENDLESS my anticipation levels were now exceptionally high. The production has been kept very secret indeed with virtually no plot details being released apart from when the film popped up on various sites revealing that it would follow two brothers who fled a death cult a decade beforehand, returning only to find that there may be some truth to their otherworldly beliefs. When this information dropped it wasn’t rocket science to realise the film was connected in some capacity to RESOLUTION. Finally I thought I may get the answers I’ve been craving for after all these years!
So, the first question is how much does this link to RESOLUTION. Well, you’ll be happy to know this is a direct sequel. It picks up a decade after the events of the first movie. We now find former UFO Death Cult members Justin and Aaron (Benson & Moorhead) heading back to the commune they grew up in to say their proper goodbyes. They now find the beliefs of their former cult quite hilarious, but feel a somewhat draw to go back. Once returned they’re welcomed with open arms within the group. Aaron begins to settle in quickly and integrate to the point he wishes to stay, but brother Justin is suspicious of the group, especially leader Hal (Tate Ellington). Things start to get even more bizarre when Justin experiences a number of unexplained occurrences that convince him that the threat is not only real, but much larger and dangerous than he had ever imagined.
Okay, let me be straight here, THE ENDLESS is a very difficult movie to review without giving too many spoilers away and like RESOLUTION it’s a pretty complex and difficult plot to explain. Unlike RESOLUTION, which didn’t give anything away, THE ENDLESS does at least answer a lot of the questions we wanted answered from the first movie. What it does now is build upon those elements and make everything grander. Even though it feels exactly the same as the first film in atmosphere, it does gradually become bigger as it progresses. The first forty minutes is an extremely slow burn and this was my favourite part of the movie. The characters are strong and believable with an eerie, unnerving feeling running beneath. The not-knowing was always the strength filtering through RESOLUTION and the first part of THE ENDLESS certainly felt the same. There’s some seriously creepy scenes to chew on that had me staggered. The inclusion of characters from the first film popping up was clever. The photography is absolutely phenomenal also and as the story finally gallops towards its climax everything is staged for a truly epic finale. What I will say is that the conclusion of THE ENDLESS is going to come down to personal satisfaction. People are either going to love its ending or side with myself, being slightly underwhelmed. There were times towards the end of the movie that I felt too much was shown. Maybe during a second viewing I may feel differently.
For me Benson & Moorhead are possibly the most innovative and exciting filmmaking talent in the world right now. They don’t only direct, but take control of the entire production, story, photography and acting, they truly are the real deal and to say I’m a massive fan is an understatement. They have so many unique ideas other directors just don’t seem to be exploring or don’t execute with the same flair as these two do. A special note goes out to their performances in the movie which are actually extremely good, but all the performances are very good to be fair, especially James Jordan who’s hilarious as Shitty Carl.
I’m so excited to see where this duo head next now this story has been given closure. No doubt it’ll be another mind bending classic.