Among genre fans, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have become synonymous with a “microbudget sci-fi drama.” Each of their films uses a Twilight Zone-esque concept to put characters through the subversions of typical dramatic setups. For example, their previous work, Spring, takes the Before Sunrise model and adds a monster to it.
The Endless similarly subverts what begins as a cult-escape drama. Benson and Moorhead play Justin and Aaron Smith, two brothers who broke free from a cult 10 years prior. Life isn’t going to well for them, and in an effort to quell his brother’s candy-colored memories of their time at the compound, Justin agrees to take Aaron back for a visit. They plan to stay for one night only, but as they spend more time at the camp, sticking around becomes a more attractive option, at least for Aaron, who is eating up the dubious activities partaken by other members of the group.
To say more would be to ruin what makes The Endless so special. The sci-fi concept being explored is super heady and a lot of fun to play with cinematically. Benson and Moorhead make the most out of a very low budget by using the simplest filmic language to create a highly functional supernatural concept.
It excites me to see what they will do with a budget. Where The Endless suffers is in its non-sci-fi elements. The bond between the two lead characters is not very believable, and when the films asks us to be on board with a hammy emotional catharsis it simply doesn’t play. For a dialogue-heavy film, one would assume that the opportunity for dramatic exposition would be taken, but most of it is used to parse out the “rules” of the sci-fi conceit.
A fun thing to note is that this film, while not a direct sequel to their first, Resolution, is indeed connected in a universe-building sort of way. At least that’s what I’ve been told. I haven’t seen Resolution, but having seen the rest of Benson and Moorhead’s impressive work, I guess I should hunt it down.