Imagine if the makers of Lost had really known where they were going instead of making it up as they went along. Imagine if all those crazy ideas they hurled into seven seasons of the desert island drama had somehow managed to end up making some sort of sense. The Endless occasionally feels like a typically bizarre episode of Lost, but fortunately directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have a clear ending in sight. Though they may not answer all your questions by the conclusion, they’ll leave you feeling a hell of a lot more satisfied than when you watched Jack lie down with that dog and smile at a bunch of people in a church.
If you weren’t a watcher of Lost, never mind. The Endless sees brothers Justin and Aaron (played by the directors themselves) making a return trip to visit the cult that they escaped from many years earlier. When we meet them, Justin and Aaron are working as cleaners, still having therapy, and younger brother Aaron is particularly unhappy with his lot in life. When a videotape arrives with a message from one of the cult members, they decide to spend a night or two back with their former ‘family’, mainly to see if anything has changed and if it was all really as crazy as Justin says it was.
The Endless works best as a story about family and particularly fraternal relationships, rather than a meditation on faith. However family and faith are constantly tested throughout. The dynamic between the brothers is of considerable interest as Justin controls and dominates his younger brother. Justin feels the burden of responsibility to look after his younger sibling and it was his decision to get them both away from the cult. But Aaron’s awakening and desire to revisit the cult is born of his memories of a happier life there. The film raises questions about how this pair relate, and whether their relationship is at all healthy, even without the influence of a group of people that have been labelled a UFO Death Cult.
And it’s with the introduction of these benign characters and their peaceful surroundings, that things take a turn for the weird. The cult seem to be a group of decent people; they make money from the ale that they make and sell, they’re big into self-improvement, and their rural existence seems perhaps a little too idyllic. This clearly complicates things for the brothers. Is Justin paranoid, or is Aaron missing the truth of what Justin sees? Before long, there is definite proof that something isn’t quite right here.
The Endless only manages to remain believable because its leads, particularly Justin, stay so cynical about the cult and its many members. As events start to spiral intriguingly, and take a long leap towards the science-fiction genre, Aaron and Justin make a grounded pair to balance the tone.
There’s a neat premise at the heart of The Endless and its characters feel real enough to keep you engaged even as the plot gets more peculiar. It’s a little lacking in heart, but it makes up for this with some striking imagery and a satisfyingly out there story that goes to some truly unexpected places.
THE ENDLESS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTORS: JUSTIN BENSON, AARON MOORHEAD / SCREENPLAY: JUSTIN BENSON / STARRING: CALLIE HERNANDEZ, TATE ELLINGTON, LEW TEMPLE / RELEASE DATE: TBA
Expected Rating: 7