My friends and I recently started a “Book and Movies Club” (so far, we’re only watching movies, but I’m confident we’ll move onto books… eventually). To this point, the selections have mostly been movies that we figured would generate a healthy discussion or ones we’ve heard were underrated. One of these latter movies was The Endless, an indie sci-fi thriller/horror movie. I certainly hadn’t heard of it before, but I really, really enjoyed it.
I’m going to embed a trailer, but honestly, I didn’t watch a trailer before seeing it and I feel like I enjoyed it more for that reason. (But definitely don’t look up the other trailer, that one definitely gives too much away.)
The movie follows two brothers, Justin and Aaron (played by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, the film’s directors), who are escapees from a “UFO Death Cult.” At the start of the movie, they receive a video from the “cult,” who they left 10 years ago. Aaron, eager for closure, suggests visiting the compound, but Justin is hesitant. As the two spend more and more time at the compound with the “cult,” the viewer learns more about the great mysteries around the group and the Lovecraftian deity they worship.
This wasn’t a big studio release, but was picked up for distribution at the Tribeca Film Festival. The movie does an impressive job of creating a scary atmosphere on a small budget. For example, the camera often has this distorted effect on whip-pan shots around the cult compound. At first, these blurred shots seem like a side-effect of the lower budget, but across the length of the film it becomes clear that it’s a deliberate choice. And I don’t want to go too deep into spoilers, but I can definitely think of one way the small budget helped. If this had been a major studio with a higher budget, they would have been more likely to show things that are better left to the imagination.
The movie doesn’t have any big-name actors, and the performances aren’t at the forefront, but in that way, they feel real. It barely feels like characters – they’re just feel like people. There are some movies where you don’t particularly want that, but honestly, these performances really work for this movie. It’s great.
Another element I liked was the “cult” and how benign they seemed. There were moments when they were a little odd and stiff, but for the most part they just seem excessively friendly. The trope of a an ominous, dangerous, Cult definitely is something that can get worn out, but this felt like a fresh take on it. This “cult” didn’t perform rituals, they just sing songs, explore their hobbies, and drink their home-brew beer (and the beer is just beer!). They feel less like a Cthulhu cult and more like a Bible camp. But the fellowship and friendliness is what makes everything else so creepy.
The film relies on its atmosphere, and unsurprisingly, it’s certainly the strongest aspect. The world we see here is one that feels perfectly off-kilter, and everything from the visuals to the character interactions really nail that down.
I did have one beat that really did not work for me, and some of my friends who watched the movie agreed; but that’s hard to get into it without dipping into spoilers. It’s one of these moments that get ragged on in any standard horror-parody, where characters have a conversation in a setting that is definitely not suitable for a conversation. I try not to harp on these type of things too much, but there has to be a better time for the characters talk about how much they’ve learned.
But honestly, that was the only issue I had, and it is an incredibly minor gripe. The Endless is still great. If you’re looking for an atmospheric, Lovecraftian horror that has an interesting take on the cult trope, this might be the move for you. If you want to watch it, check it out on Netflix.