The nifty low-budget indie The Endless stars directors Justin Benson (who also penned the film’s canny screenplay) and Aaron Moorhead as Justin and Aaron, two brothers who escaped from a cult years ago and now live hand to mouth in Los Angeles. When Aaron receives a tape in the mail from the cult members, he is inclined to revisit the compound, Camp Arcadia, much to Justin’s chagrin. Aaron says he wants closure; Justin is dubious but agrees to go along.
What transpires is an intriguing mystery/sci-fi film that cleverly plays the ends against the middle. Whereas Aaron is comfortable back in the camp, Justin is skeptical. Whereas the cult members all seem normal, there is no doubt that something sinister going on. The truth behind the cult’s behavior is best left for audiences to discover, but one member drops a clue when he performs a magic trick with a baseball that goes up but waits to come down.
The Endless is considerably engaging as Aaron reacquaints himself, and Justin tries to puzzle out what is weirding him out. When he goes for a run he has a strange encounter, and things get more bizarre as two moons are reflected one night in the sky.
It is not spoiling too much to reveal there is a peculiar time loop at play in Camp Arcadia, but how this is presented is part of the film’s magic. For a small indie film, Benson and Moorhead include some terrific special effects and cinematography. An overhead shot of a rowboat in a lake is fantastic as are some of the shots of birds circling over the area.
While the narrative may get a bit tricky once the time loop continuum is presented, The Endless is less concerned with the sci-fi elements, and more focused on the theme of control. The film asks a pretty salient question: Do you have power over yourself if you give authority to someone else?
Benson and Moorhead have a nice rapport as brothers, and they make their characters appealing even when Aaron keeps insisting on staying one more day. There is also a palpable friction between them; Justin pulled Aaron out of the cult, and Aaron kind of resents his brother for doing that.
Skillfully made, The Endless is smart sci-fi entry that will satisfy fans of the genre as well as those who, like Justin, are dubious of cults and sci-fi flicks.
The Endless opens in Philly theaters today.
Author: Gary M. Kramer
Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer. He is the co-editor of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. Volumes 1 and 2, and teaches seminars at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer.