March 31, 2018 The Endless (Movie Review)
Snowfort Pictures and Love & Death Productions originally entered The Endless at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and, within two weeks, they managed to get a distributor, Well Go USA Entertainment, who will be releasing it in select theaters Friday, April 6, 2018. Though people in and around New York City can catch it at WHAT THE FEST!? on March 30th, if they fancy giving Netflix a chill.
Written and directed by co-leads Justin Benson (Resolution 2012, Spring 2014) and Aaron Moorhead (V/H/S Viral 2014, BeerBongi 2016), The Endless tells a curious tale – one curious enough to win 4 awards and be nominated for another 5 at Tribeca, including Tribeca’s Jury Award. In the film, two brothers, Justin and Aaron Smith (Benson and Moorhead respectively), receive a mysterious video, and they presume it to be from the cult they had escaped from years ago and decide to return to it to receive closure. However, they begin to have second thoughts about the cult’s kooky beliefs when some inexplicable events occur around the camp. Is everything as it seems to be, or is it all just some hoax? Were they right to begin with?
After all, they do seem to be living comfortably out in the backwoods: healthy food, clean country living, and the youngest looking 40-year olds as a result. This is not a knock against the film, as it is intentional. The brothers’ former minder Anna is supposed to be in her forties but is played by 29-year old Callie Hernandez (La La Land 2016, Alien Covenant 2017), and the same goes for the camp’s leader Hal – played by 38-year old Tate Ellington (Straight Outta Compton 2015, Adam Ruins Everything series) – who is closer to the mark.
Of course, this is not beyond the realms of reason, as some people just age better than others. Though there is more going on under the surface: like funny characters living in shacks, weird sounds coming from the woods, and strange disappearances amongst others. The writing does a good job at balancing out the cult’s allure with the suspicion: Aaron is more entranced by the camp while Justin is much more sceptical, but even they second-guess themselves until the climax. The ambiguity makes the story more engaging, while the big reveal just makes the film even more mysterious.
The camerawork and visual effects get to shine here too. The way the film uses close-ups as transitions for some sequences is very smooth, as well as the disorientating slow-motion moves; it even manages to make some eerie, yet beautiful shots when combined with the effects. Though, if there were a bugbear, it is that the film looks desaturated; this looks okay in the camp where it adds to the scene, making it look more rustic and out of time. Though, in the city at the start? It could be to make the city look colder and less-inviting than the camp, yet the blues, whites, and greys can be a little overpowering.
The acting is pretty good too. Moorhead has worked with Benson on several projects as a cinematographer (including this one) and co-director, so it may be little surprise that the two have good chemistry. Their bickering remarks to each other make their characters as much brothers as their affection; they frustrate each other, but they do not want to leave the other behind either. It makes them feel more authentic and helps them differ from their former compatriots.
The camp members are not exactly Stepford Wives though. Ellington’s Hal and Hernandez’s Anna, amongst others, have blood running through their veins; they can still be hurt in one way or another. Yet the way they interact with each other – so peacefully and calmly – helps them differ from the others; they are not stereotypical starry-eyed sheep, yet they still follow the flock regardless.
So, The Endless has good acting, great camerawork, subtle and convincing effects, and, not to mention, an eerie soundtrack. It keeps up a good pace, balancing its mystery out across its 1 hour, 51-minute running time. The script even balances the characters out between their quirks, so they come off as more engaging and relatable. The film even manages to mix in some humor, dark or otherwise, amongst the thrills and chills. All in all, The Endless is well-worth catching once it makes its wider release. Thus, for these reasons, CrypticRock gives The Endless 4.5 out of 5 stars.