The Endless (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

Two brothers return to the alien cult they once fled to see the people still there.  Once at the cult’s camp, they discover that odd happenings are afoot and the cult may not be as crazy as it seems.

Written by Justin Benson who co-directed with Aaron Moorhead, The Endless is a slow slow burn of a film that takes its time to set-up the weirdness going on and creates a sort of mindfuck as it goes along.  The film takes a few known ideas such as cults and time warps and plays with them until they connect and make sense.  The co-directors having worked together on other features, they clearly know how to work together and this shows in how the film is directed, being a way that looks seamless between the two of them and what they each directed, something that is not always well done, but is great here.

To make things more complex for themselves, the co-directors also play the brothers at the center of the story, with almost all scenes involving both or either of them.  The both of them give good performances here, showing that they know what they are doing and how to get the characters from a to b and how to show the right emotions.  Of course having written, in the case of Benson, and co-directing, in both cases, they know the material through and through and know how they want it to show, to feel, which they show through their performances, the emotions shown, the way they carry themselves on screen.  Their involvement being so deep into the story and the performances, their direction and choice of actors for the other parts was very important and the ensemble of the cast does well throughout the film, giving them what they need to advance this story that feels odder and odder as the runtime advances.

The cinematography here also works with the story and how the film develops, showing muted images of California and slightly more colorful images when with the cult or other characters.  This creates a sort of disconnect between the cult and other affected people and the rest of the story, something that works for the story and creates very specific feelings for each set-ups.  Here, the cinematography is by Aaron Moorhead, one of the co-directors and co-stars, adding to the level of filmmaking knowledge on display here.

Supporting the images and the story is the music by Jimmy Lavalle.  His work connects the film even deeper with its story and its meaning or message.  Without this music, some of the scenes would not have been impactful or as impactful.  His work meshes with the film’s overall feeling, creating something that connects with the audience.

The Endless is a film that takes its time to get to the point, but makes sense the more it advances while also adding layers to its story.  It’s one of those films that can be considered a bit of a mindfuck and something that is more cerebral than most genre films have been of late.  It’s a film the audience needs to pay attention to and think while watching it for it to make sense.  Yes, things are fairly wrapped up by the end but it still has a bit of mystery left.  This film is one of those where knowing very little going in is most likely best, causing a bit of an issue for reviewing as spoilers or deep discussion of the film’s content would be detrimental to viewers.

Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 13th to August 2nd.