Thursday 14 June 2018

The Endless (USA 2017: Dir Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead)

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s follow up to their excellent 2014 romance-with-tentacles movie Spring is a real melon twister of the highest order.

Benson and Moorhead both star (casting themselves using their own first names) as brothers, who ten years previously had escaped from a woodland deity worshipping cult. The group had adopted the pair from infancy, rescuing them from a car crash near the commune which killed their mother.

But returning to normal life has clearly been difficult. When we first meet them, Justin and Aaron are both stuck in menial cleaning jobs, living a real second gear existence. But a strange package delivered to their home, containing an old video tape featuring one of the cult - Anna - seeming to address them personally, sets off a desire (by Aaron at least) to return to the commune. Grudgingly Justin agrees to accompany him. 

When the brothers arrive at the so called ‘Camp Arcadia’ they find the cult members no older than when they last saw them. The group are also preparing for an ‘Ascension’ which presumably will find the commune members reborn. Justin remains sceptical but Aaron is quickly seduced back into the cult's strange ways and rituals, forming an attachment with Anna, now broadly the same age, who raised him from a baby.

As usual to tell more of the plot would be to spoil the fun, suffice it to say that we’re in Triangle, Time Crimes and Primer territory here. And while all those films are good in their own ways, what makes The Endless such a terrific movie is the balance of ‘oh wow’ moments with a rich vein of dry humour which not only adds to the suspension of disbelief needed to accept the movie’s plot, but makes Benson (who wrote the script) and Moorhead (also Director of Photography on the flick) a really enjoyable duo to spend time with.

Other supporting characters are also well-defined, particularly the inscrutable cult leader Hal (Tate Ellington) and there's a fine turn from James Jordan as the brilliantly named and creatively angry Shitty Carl - intriguingly some of these characters return from Benson and Morehead's debut feature, 2012's Resolution, suggesting that the cycles in which the cast of this movie operate may exceed the confines of the film. The Endless builds quietly from its linear opening, and tells its story with some care while opening out the drama, resisting the urge to be overly tricksy and maintaining wit and humanity: the ending packs such a punch because the preceding hour and a half has been structured so well.

One of my favourite films of the year so far. See it.

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