US | 2017 | Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead
Logline: Two adult brothers return to the cult community they escaped from as adolescents and discover much more than they bargained for.
For their third feature, and continuing with creative responsibilities divided into Benson as screenwriter, Moorehead as cinematographer, and the pair sharing producing, editing, and directing, the two indie filmmakers return to the remote desert wilderness where their debut, Resolution, unfolded, as the narrative follows two brothers, played by the directors, using their own first names, who have languished in a menial cleaning job for the past ten years, trying to put behind them their weird experiences within a supposed death cult, from which they escaped and badmouthed.
Emotional and psychological baggage can really weigh a person down. Aaron and Justin know this well. Now Aaron feels he has unfinished business at Camp Arcadia, the isolated group of believers he and his brother were part of in their impressionable early years. Justin is heavily reticent about re-involving themselves, but, as he feels protective of his brother’s frailty, he indulges (humors?) his brother’s potentially dangerous desire.
Speaking of desire, there’s the lovely Anna (Callie Hernandez), whom Aaron feels drawn back to. But it’s the community/cult’s leader, Hal (Tate Ellington), and resident camp weirdos Lizzy (Kira Powell), Shitty Carl (James Jordan) and Tim (Lew Temple) who are providing Justin with the heebie jeebies. Then there’s the meeting with Jenny (Emily Montague), who is on the camp’s fringes, overwhelmed with grief, still searching for her lost husband Michael (Peter Cilella), of whom viewers of Resolution will recognize and know what she’s referring to.
The connection The Endless has with Resolution and extraterrestrial intelligence/malevolence becomes more and more apparent as the movie burrows on, and it’s a disquietingly enthralling slow-burn of religious deconstruction and deep cosmic dread that plays – and screws – with the time/space continuum, that oh-so-delicate fabric of temporal existence we call “reality”, in even more complex and intriguing ways than Resolution does. The supernatural haze thickens.
I wasn’t completely sold on the performances of Benson and Moorehead in the lead roles, and the unusual comedic tone that rears its head, but, like Shane Carruths’ similarly complex and unique Primer and Upstream Color, The Endless slyly manages to elude conventional criticism, and instead basks in the dark rays of its own elliptical meta-structure and the threads of strained relationships. It lingers long, like a powerful dream filled with mysterious spectres and enigmatic references. The movie is also gifted with a great sound design, and another stunning score from Jimmy Lavalle, who composed for their romance-monster movie Spring.
As the two opening quotes imply; Lovecraft’s insight that humankind’s deepest fear is that of the unknown, and an unknown source stating that truths revealed by siblings are usually reserved for those precious moments just before imminent death.
Now. Here. Nowhere.
The Endless screens Friday, September 15th, 10.30pm, and Saturday, September 16th, 12pm, at The Factory Theatre, Marrickville, as part of the 11th Sydney Underground Film Festival.