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Tribeca Film Festival 2017: ‘The Endless’ is a great psychological ride

The Endless is a smart indie genre-bender and a thrillingly original picture. Both extremely watchable actors, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s work behind the camera is also impressive. Spare, carefully-placed special effects create real suspense and wonder throughout the film. Though their 2012 Tribeca hit Resolution introduced this world through two characters who appear in this film too, it’s not necessary to have seen it to understand anything here. The Endless makes great use of its indie roots and is a great reminder that when it comes to horror/sci-fi, less is often more. It also relies on the screenplay’s intelligence, using its genres to explore larger themes, while also remaining hugely entertaining.

Brothers Justin (Benson) and Aaron (Moorhead) are scraping to get by after escaping a cult a decade earlier. A mysterious tape arrives in the mail from their former “family,” igniting in Aaron the need to return to investigate. Justin, worried about his brother’s depression and idealized memories of the past, begrudgingly agrees to accompany him back for one night. As they get closer to the commune, subtle but inexplicable changes start to occur, and once they arrive, Aaron and Justin quickly diverge in their take of the place. After living hand-to-mouth in the outside world, Aaron is enamored with the abundance of fresh food, a self-sustaining economy based on a thriving beer export business, and the friendly joyful spirit the members seem to exude. They look significantly younger too, which Aaron chalks up to the healthy, peaceful living. Justin, however, can’t wait to leave. He sees people with broken pasts, delusional worldviews, and manipulative mind-control tactics. When an incident during his afternoon jog has only supernatural probabilities, Justin starts to question his assumptions though and agrees to stay another night in order to dig deeper. The magnetic leader, Hal (Tate Ellington), offers enigmatic advice for the brothers to discover the cult’s secret for themselves. I won’t spoil what they uncover, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

In a post-screening discussion, Benson and Moorhead shared their take on the film. They were interested in employing the supernatural to explore things that are genuinely terrifying, like traumatic memory, loss of control over one’s fate, and being observed by something sinister, unseen, and more powerful. They also explored how different people respond to being caught in circumstances where they have permanently lost control over their lives. Though not actual brothers, the directors wanted family and homecoming to be significant themes in the film. In an unpredictable world, how do people protect the ones they love while giving them room to create their own lives? Benson and Moorhead do an outstanding job of creating a psychological genre hybrid that feels fresh, clear, and relatable – a great ride.

Variety Magazine selected this duo in their 2015 ten director’s to watch, and after seeing The Endless, it’s clear why they were picked. Their 2014 hit Spring announced this team as creators of quality films that are brainy, frightening, and beautiful to watch. These very talented guys have a bright future ahead.

Ivy Lofberg

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