The third feature by filmmaking partners Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead blends Lovecraftian horror and intrigue with off-kilter comedic beats, and really, only the latter ever works. Starting out with amusing bickering and some bizarre one-liners, for a while the film manages to mildly entertain before eventually being dragged down by pretty unconvincing dramatic performances and a lacklustre plot. It doesn’t help that it looks and sounds pretty unspectacular too; the seams of the film’s budget really show when they try and portray the supernatural.
As two brothers who escaped a doomsday cult 10 years prior, Benson and Moorhead have good chemistry and strong comedic timing. As they venture out into the wilderness to their old camp that they publicly denounced, the subversion of the cult story proves amusing as Aaron finds out that Justin may have exaggerated how bad things were. For a while, The Endless manages to coast along on the charm of its dialogue and the pure strangeness of the characters they’ve created, Benson and Moorhead making decent straight men to the the various weirdos in the camp. But incredulous looks and skeptical remarks can only get you so far. Once the mystery begins to unfold, the duo ultimately fails to capture the sense of helplessness or overwhelming incomprehension that the opening quotes promise. Despite an imaginative concept, the narrative feels surprisingly bland, even when the pieces begin to fall into place – and when there’s no quick punchline to fall back on, the film suffers.
The challenge of a mystery-box narrative is maintaining audience interest through all the teases, red herrings and strange coincidences that might stack up along the way. Unfortunately, despite all of its charm, The Endless doesn’t quite manage to live up to this challenge.
CAST: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Lew Temple, Tate Ellington, Emily Montague
DIRECTORS: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
WRITER: Justin Benson
SYNOPSIS: Two brothers return to the cult they fled from years ago to discover that the group’s beliefs may be more sane than they once thought.