Movie Review: The Endless (2017)


The Endless (2017)

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Cast

  • Justin Benson as Justin Smith
  • Aaron Moorhead as Aaron Smith
  • Callie Hernandez as Anna
  • Tate Ellington as Hal
  • Lew Temple as Tim
  • James Jordan as Shitty Carl
  • Shane Brady as Shane Williams
  • Kira Powell as Lizzy
  • David Lawson Jr. as Smiling Dave
  • Emily Montague as Jennifer Danube
  • Peter Cilella as Michael Danube
  • Vinny Curran as Chris Daniels
  • Glen Roberts as Woods
  • Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

No Spoilers

Two brothers living dead-end lives receive a video from a cult they used to belong to, and are persuaded to make a return visit. Only trouble is, they think it’s a death cult. Weirdly, when they finally arrive there, nobody seems to have aged or really changed at all. Is everyone living really well, are they all ghosts, or is something much weirder than your typical cult horror movie about to take place?

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Just you’re friendly UFO cult…kind of

The Endless is a brilliant followup to Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s strange and engaging 2012 Resolution (2012). It’s not necessary to have seen Resolution first, but there are several links to the earlier film nestled within Endless, tying up some loose ends, though it delights more in unravelling new threads. With a knack for spreading tiny details that add up to huge realisations, it deals with the infinite but keeps it all relatably at ground level. That’s about the best you can hope for in a film tying together Lovecraftian concepts of vast, unknowable monsters, warped space and time, and strange UFO cults and meth heads living out in the back end of nowhere. There’s an uneasy feeling about the land that the cult inhabits (but they’d prefer not to be called a cult, thank you). There’s practically no jump scares here though. The creepy aspect comes down to pure existential dread, as the truth of their situation is gradually revealed.

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Justin and Aaron come face to face with the truth

The real horror hits the viewer alongside the two brothers as they come to understand the terrifying forces at work, but its the focus on this little group of people and their reactions to the insane situation that really make us care. And I cared a lot. The two brothers have a difficult relationship but clearly look out for each other, and this emotional connection, as they struggle to decide what they want out of life, is the crux of the story. If they do decide to leave, will the strange force at work even let them go?

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Drive angry….

While it’s not a typical horror, The Endless is every bit a Lovecraftian nightmare. There’s little gore either, but this film rewards a bit of patience, so if you’re ready to question your sanity, and peek at the secrets behind an eternity of time and space, then I’d recommend you dive right in.

Big Spoilers (including some for Resolution)

It’s an idea that grows more hideous the longer you think about it. Imagine being stuck in a bubble of time, trying desperately to please a huge Eldritch entity that just wants a narrative. But you have no idea how to please it. Where Resolution was like a low-budget, slightly more oblique Cabin in the Woods, the Endless suggests these time loops aren’t entirely a bad thing – though most will disagree. After all, you have to please the creature that’s keeping everyone in these loops, which is no easy feat.

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Scary drawings of the creature

Some characters believe that pleasing it will mean a release from their ‘bubble’, but I don’t really see any evidence that this would be the case. Perhaps it sees humans as its DVD collection, happy to revisit and edit their lives for all eternity. For the most part unseen, it somehow understands how to use video cameras and other image recording equipment to create a narrative, like an even larger scoped version of the demon in Sinister, or the monstrous hospital in Grave Encounters.

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The video sent to the brothers by the creature, somehow…I mean it’s a time-warping Eldritch monstrosity, I just have trouble seeing it buy stamps, that’s all…

The creature’s bubbles of time are contained within the weird posts that stick up all over the site, but it still managed to reach the brothers who’d been gone for a decade. Basically, watch out for this bugger on YouTube, and trust nothing you’re shown. With this thing around, maybe we’re all gonna be kept in a loop for all eternity. It is interesting that being stuck within a loop gets treated as both heaven and hell. The cult have clearly warmed to the idea, sticking happily to their cycle of ‘Ascension’ and even playing a weird tug of war game with the creature…but then there’s the poor bastard in the tent, whose loop lasts four seconds. Leaping up in terror for all eternity. Yeah. The brothers do make it out barely, but you still wonder if they’re quite as safe as they seem to think…and what else could be out there?

The Good

  • The endless (heh) time-looping. Think about it a while before you admit its complete and utter nightmare fuel. OR IS IT?
  • The characters. They’re believable, vulnerable and relatably freaked out.
  • The special effects are hella subtle but super effective. The landscape is very pretty too with some really epic moments. What the hell are those monoliths and statues?

The Bad

  • So, how does the entity know how to use the postal service and package up an envelope and mail a video out, luring people back to it again? How does it even know their address?
  • Technically very little happens, but the devil is really in the details.
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This is kind of the monster’s (extensive) media collection. …

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