Tribeca 2017: The Endless
Returning to Tribeca after premiering their standout 2012 feature Resolution, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead deliver an enticing, mysterious genre experiment with The Endless, that stands to be their best work yet.
In addition to directing, producing, writing, editing, and host of other roles, Benson and Moorhead star in the lead roles as brothers (of the same names), who return to a cult-like faction years after escaping as teens, where their story became a media sensation. Their lives since then are quite far from glamorous, so when a mysterious package arrives on their doorstep, containing a video with strange images related to their past, the duo decide to make the trip back and see how things have changed.
Surprisingly, the community they once belonged to is a paradise of sorts, where the inhabitants live a stress-free lifestyle and maintain a youthful sense of exuberance. Their leader, Hal (Tate Ellington) takes a mentor-like approach to Aaron, while Justin slowly but surely comes to discover the secret behind why no one wants to leave, but more importantly, why they can't.
In terms of where The Endless goes, it's a crazy ride that's best seen with knowing as little as possible. Coming off their recent genre-hybrid Spring, which took inspiration from the works of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, the filmmakers have chosen to explore that reference point from another plane. The film even opens with a Lovecraft quote that sets the stage for the innate dilemma at The Endless's heart, coming to form a self-reflexive notion when the larger situation at hand comes into play.
What's excellent about the film is how it takes on a DIY presentation via it's mies-en-scene and naturalistic performances, to really accentuate it's more out-there elements. Universal, existential themes are on display, but the human element that's front-and-centre really grounds this approach and makes these revelations all that more intense.
Playing lead roles for the first time in their careers, it's fun to watch Benson and Moorhead be present on-screen in the story they've concocted, and it's a rare example of being behind and in-front of the camera working in spades. Their ensemble cast warrants praise too, especially Ellington who straddles the line between wholesome and sinister. Character actor James Jordan also gets a nice role as Shitty Carl, who the brothers encounter early on and who later becomes integral to the narrative's twisting nature.
2017 has already given us some great titles in genre filmmaking, and The Endless is certainly another amazing achievement in that respect. Benson and Moorhead have outdone themselves with a thoroughly engrossing, intelligent, and shocking blend of cult and the occult. Its Tribeca premiere should ensure lots of attention on the film circuit throughout the rest of the year, what they've done here deserves to be called one of the best sci-fi films of the year.