The Endless review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
I’m going to do something I rarely do and begin my review with a spoiler. The Endless is a micro-budget supernatural thriller that exists within the same universe as the other film by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, Resolution. I doubt it’s a spoiler considering few have seen that brilliant found-footage movie but they really should, considering discovering this crossover blew my mind and turned the very concept of this film to become infinitely more fascinating.
Justin and Aaron are brothers that were formerly members of a cult in the woods. They differ in their memories. Justin remembers them as a UFO death cult but Aaron has much fonder recollections. It’s all that has been on their minds since their deprogramming hasn’t led to the most active social life. With nothing to do, they decide to confirm their suspicions and take one day trip to the cult to see whose memory is more valid. Being a thriller, your alarm bells are probably going off at the very idea. But, hey, what else are they going to do? Find another cult?
For the first act, all is going smooth and subtle around the happy camp, with the odd exception of all the members seem to have not aged since Justin and Aaron left. It’s a mystery that will be answered later but for the time being the brothers are busy trying to connect with their relation to the cult. They become so used to it that they decide to stay another day. Another bad idea but if they leave now they may never know the disturbing truth.
And disturbing it is. Without revealing too much, they stumble into a trap where time is stuck and any escape, be it from the forest or life, seems impossible. Why this is happening is kept very ambiguous. Yes, this is in part to keep the budget low, but at the same time, it creates a mystique about the nature of what’s going on. Sometimes there’s a creepy tape that reveals more clues and other times it’s a monster that can’t be fully explained. The imagination becomes the best playground for this material that is very terrifying in its own right.
Still, there are some impressive special effects with the time looping curse. It’s the simplest elements that make it the most effective in the cutting and sound. One camper is discovered where he is caught between life and death, splitting at times. Another will be stuck in a perpetual repeat of the same ten seconds over and over and over. And there’s the biggest surprise as aforementioned that ties the story right back into Resolution and yet still keeps thing unsettling and mysterious.
The Endless presents the biggest argument for how you don’t need a big budget to produce the most interesting and engaging of film, even within the genre of sci-fi horror. Every filmmaker should take note of what Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have done here, weaving a film that becomes terrifying and trippy with so little. There’s a great uneasy present comparable to the likes of David Lynch and Alex Garland but working with much less. And they even managed to bring a connected universe into this film as well! Brimming with originality and creativity, this is top-tier entertainment from low-budget filmmakers.