As it is now July, and is apparently summer (not that you’d know by the indecisive nature of the British weather), it is time to switch-up the theme for my weekly Friday Night Fright. In keeping with the new summery theme, each film choice for this month will be one that plays out more during daylight hours than the traditional horror setting of the darkest night. Today’s pick is the absolutely fantastic The Endless, from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.
Justin (Justin Benson) and Aaron (Aaron Moorhead) are two brothers struggling to fit in with the world. The reason for this is that they spent their formative years in a strange cult out in the desert-like wilderness. Justin broke the pair out whilst a young teenager, and though he has never looked back, his younger brother Aaron has become obsessed with their past. Desperate for his brother to connect with the world around them Justin reluctantly offers to take them both back for a short trip. Hoping for closure, the pair set-off, but once they arrive at the commune Justin realises that nothing has changed, especially the people. Can he get them out safely a second time?
Typically, films that deal with cults feature a Charles Manson like figure, or it’s a death cult, sex cult, or some other depraved story. In The Endless, the cult is actually a backdrop. It’s the setting for the story, not necessarily the subject. It’s an interesting decision and makes for compelling viewing. Hidden amongst the cult hook is a tale of a brotherly bond tested to the limit, and a The Wicker Man-esque mystery. It is a film that is best to go into as fresh as possible so we’ll go no further, but trust us it will have you gripped; with plenty of mysteries and questions, you will most definitely be watching The Endless more than once.
Playing our leads of Justin and Aaron are none other than our directing duo of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. They work superbly on screen together and easily pass for brothers. There’s an odd Dean and Sam Winchester vibe to the brother’s relationship that fans of Supernatural will appreciate, but it’s not the only relationship to watch. The dynamic between Aaron and his old babysitter Anna (played by Blair Witch‘s Callie Hernandez) is equal parts innocence and ick – think Back to the Future and you’ll know what we mean.
Again, much like The Wicker Man, The Endless is one of those few films that manages to pull off horror scares during the day. Our setting is predominantly wide open sunny-scapes, not your usual location for people to be fearful, and yet Benson and Moorhead manage to inject an underlying atmosphere of unease and dread. It’s very clear that something is off about the place, and it’s unsettling and uncomfortable.
In addition to offering a plethora of material to engage the brain and spark conversations, The Endless is also a feast for the eyes. It looks truly wonderful and deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible to truly appreciate its beauty. Sunny bluer than blue skies overlook sun-scorched and slightly burned out landscapes, making the fleeting greenery pop. Then there’s the bleakness of the night sky juxtaposed with warm firelight and colour-filled sunsets. The sunsets also feature in one of the most visually arresting shots in the film (pictured above).
Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson have been working together for several years and their easy dynamic comes across on screen. As well as writing, directing and starring in The Endless, they also did the cinematography, edited and produced the film. Now that’s a lot of hats and in the hands of lesser teams the wheels could have come off somewhere, but not with this duo. Somehow, despite the incredible workload, they have managed to pull of a compelling and original narrative, clever and assured direction, breathtakingly beautiful visuals, well-paced edits, and some highly emotive and engaging performances. In short, The Endless is intelligent, immersive and incredible, one you’ll want to watch over and over to uncover the hidden depths. Watch it as soon as you can.
This reviewed was first published on THN. The Endless is available on Digital, DVD and Blu-Ray now.