Cinematic Releases: There's No Time Like the Present: The Endless (2017) - Reviewed

Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have created quite an interesting universe with their three indie-horror films: Resolution (2012), Spring (2014), and The Endless (2017). They tend to eschew a formalist approach to their work, instead weaving their themes in and out of the narrative in a surrealistic fashion--combining Lovecraftian elements with some science fiction tropes. This gives each story an unsettling feeling wherein there is a distinct sense that something is very wrong under the surface that one cannot quite put their finger on.

The Endless follows two brothers: Justin Smith (Justin Benson) and Aaron Smith (Aaron Moorhead) who have escaped a UFO death cult. Aaron is unable to get acclimated to normal life and convinces Justin to let them return to the cult to gain some closure from their former life there. Upon their return they encounter some strange events that have them questioning the very fabric of reality. As an aside, while you can certainly watch and enjoy this film without seeing any of the previous movies, I definitely recommend that curious moviegoers check out Resolution first before diving into The Endless. These two films are directly connected and The Endless re-contextualizes the story in Resolution in a genius way.

While it is apparent that this film had a low budget (especially in some of the CGI work) it doesn't hamper the execution of the film in any appreciable way. I like to refer to this as "high concept with a low budget" and it proves that if the writing and passion is strong enough you don't need a lot of money to make a compelling film. The cinematography is gorgeous and it quite often takes jaunts into magical realism. Although some of the acting is a tiny bit stilted it doesn't take away from the impact of the world-building as a lot of the exposition is relayed visually as opposed to characters just dumping information. Each piece of the puzzle is presented slowly allowing the mystery to unfold at its own pace.

This film takes a lot of cues from H.P. Lovecraft, specifically the concept of "cosmicism" in which an individual has no control over their own personal reality or existence in said reality. Due to their insignificance in the greater universe their life has no meaning and this realization is met with existential terror. While this idea can be more metaphysical and abstract in nature, in The Endless it has palpable representation which in turn makes it even more frightening. These characters are literally trapped in their own personal hell, unable to escape. Each person's reaction to this revelation is different in the film and it explores the differing perspectives thoroughly.

The Endless is a film that requires extra effort put into understanding its themes and it rewards the viewer that puts in the time with an incredible and bone-chilling journey into the abyss.

--Michelle Kisner