Long time directorial partners Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead are back again with a new project that they’ve both directed and now star in. Previously the duo worked on such well received features as “Resolution” and “Spring.” If you’ve seen their work then you know that they’ve got a knack for more quiet atmospheric movies with a horror twist and “The Endless” keeps that trend going. However, does their newest outing live up to their previous works?
In “The Endless” brothers Justin (Justin Benson) and Aaron (Aaron Moorehead) are struggling to keep their lives together. The two hate their job, have financial troubles, and can’t seem to connect with people. On top of that, they’re also dealing with the fact that they escaped from a UFO death cult ten years prior. But when the brothers receive a tape from the cult, indicating that everyone is very much alive, they decide to head back to try and get some much needed closure.
While “The Endless” is billed as a horror movie, the film really is more of a family drama. Opening with a quote about how distant siblings can be towards each other, “The Endless” examines the somewhat strained relationship between Justin and Aaron. The brothers aren’t at odds with each other, but it’s clear that there is a growing divide between the two as Aaron has grown increasingly dissatisfied with his post-cult life. This wedge in their relationship is used to great effect in the movie as it’s not only a tool to examine who these men are, but who they are to each other after all these years.
So how does the horror fit into this family drama? Well, keep in mind they’re re-visiting a cult in the middle of nowhere. That being said, the beauty of a cult is that on the outside it seems serene and inviting, but just underneath the surface there’s always some kind of foreboding darkness lurking. “The Endless” doesn’t indulge in insane terrifying cult tropes, but instead slowly interweaves a dark mystique into the story that keeps pulling you along until the grand conclusion. It’s definitely not a movie that will scare audiences, but it deals in enough supernatural mystery and reality bending tricks to drag up a certain amount of tension.
With Justin and Aaron handling directorial duties and Justin serving as writer, it’s a surprise that the two would also throw acting onto their already full plate. Well, thankfully they did because the two are absolutely great together. It’s probably in thanks to their time working together, but Benson and Moorhead have excellent chemistry and feel completely believable as brothers. Beyond that, they’re also solid actors. Aaron is good at playing the awkwardly naive younger brother while Benson nails the more jaded and sarcastic older brother attitude. The two bounce between interpersonal drama and jokes with commendable skill.
But Justin and Aaron don’t do it all by themselves. To help their performances they’ve surrounded themselves with excellent actors who portray uniquely quirky cult members. There are even non-cultists that the two run into who give some memorable performances that border on derange and amusing. There are even a few familiar faces that fans of previous Benson and Moorhead films will be delighted to see.
I also have to say that “The Endless” is a visually impressive film. This isn’t a special effects heavy feature, but it uses its isolated setting and some nice visual tricks to make the film appealing to watch. It’s not the best part of the movie, but with a film set in such a barren isolated area they find ways to take plain vistas and give them an injection of wonder.
Overall, “The Endless” isn’t going to blow you away when it comes to horror. It’s a slow burn movie where the horror is more often implied than actually shown. If you’ve seen “Spring” and “Resolution” you’ll know what you’re getting into. If not, I would still recommend “The Endless” to horror fans as it has enough reality bending horror tricks to appease them while also being an overall well done movie. Currently “The Endless” is playing in a limited number of theaters, so check your local listings to see if it’s near you.