The Endless is the latest from proudly low-budget multi-taskers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. It’s an exercise in intimate unease that presents a potentially fantastical storyline but grounds it in reality and offers characters we actually like, no matter how flawed and frustrating they might be.
Benson (writer, co-director, co-star, co-producer, co-editor) and Moorhead (cinematographer, co-director, co-star, co-producer) have shown their knack for this sort of bargain-priced material before, although this is a bigger and more ambitious effort than their previous picture Spring. Freakier too.
Brothers Justin (Benson) and Aaron Smith (Moorhead) are survivors of a cult, sorry, ‘commune’, and it’s been some ten years since their escape, and now they barely scrape by working as cleaners. Justin is the more cynical of the pair (he calls it a “UFO death cult”) but Aaron says he wants to visit the place for old time’s sake, after a video is sent to them featuring Anna (Callie Hernandez), whom Aaron obviously has a thing for.
Justin agrees to take his sibling to the isolated rural spot for one day and one night (perhaps a little hard to believe since he talks of them as being a Jim-Jones-like bunch, but there wouldn’t be much of a movie if he didn’t), and Aaron of course starts thinking that he wants to stay. Indeed (the real sting here), life in the commune, with its fresh air, nice food, sense of community and attractive women, seems vastly preferable to the life they lead back in the city. Who cares if something terrible might happen?
The hard-nosed Justin is suspicious though, and only he notices the strange events taking place around the camp, with the various FX often captured via simple and economical (but pleasing) in-camera and editing tricks. He’s also the one who mostly cops the full force of the final act here, as things get darkly funny, unnervingly creepy and even somewhat trippy, all at once.
For all its frightening sci-fi trimmings, this elegantly handled, impressively played outing is perhaps most surprising for its surprisingly moving moments. After all, in the end it’s about a guy trying to save his hapless brother from, well, ‘The Endless’.
Rated M. The Endless is screening at the Mercury Cinema on Saturday May 12 at 7.00pm and will be accompanied by a 30 minute behind-the-scenes featurette. All details are at mercurycinema.org.au