The creepy horror film The Endless ups the stakes for its creators

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Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our short reviews in the style of festival films, VR previews and other special event launches. This review was originally published after the film's debut at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. It has been republished to coincide with the theatrical release of the film.
Back in 2012, the Tribeca Film Festival hosted the world premiere of a small independent horror film called Resolution, directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead and written by Benson. The faded and filthy poster of the film made it look exactly like the torture porn movies that were already in fashion at the time, but the film itself is something different: an intimate drama about two friends trapped in a cabin, where something Supernatural is stalking them and gradually is becoming known. The end of Resolution is a surprising surprise after the slow construction that leads to it, but the surprise comes when Benson and Moorhead use Resolution to play with tropes of horror movies and jokes about horror movie audiences.
Benson and Moorhead moved away from the world of resolution with their second film together, Spring, about a young man who involuntarily becomes sexually and emotionally involved with a monster. But they have returned to their original world with their latest project, The Endless, which gives Resolution a little more resolution. It's not exactly a continuation, but it's based on Resolution's ideas with enough clarity that The Endless will play much better for people who have already seen their first movie, and have their expectations set for the Lovecraftian horror, the technological mind games and Some meta ideas about what makes a story satisfying.

What is the genre?
Mindbending horror-low budget thriller.
What is it about?
Benson and Moorhead play characters with their own names, two brothers who work as low-income housecleaners. After their mother died in a car accident, they were rescued and raised by a nearby community of dumb and dumb people who earn their living by making beer and selling beer and doing other odd jobs for the nearby community. But Justin eventually rebelled and pulled Aaron out, and his much-publicized "escape from the cult of UFO death" has colored his two lives. They find it hard to make friends or go to appointments, and they live without personal connections or a plan for the future. Aaron fondly remembers the commune, as a group of friendly people who ate healthy foods, lived a healthy lifestyle and genuinely cared for each other. Justin has darker memories, and Aaron's sentimentality about the group makes him nervous. When a battered video tape appears in the mail, with a cult member talking about the approaching ascent, it seals Aaron's determination to return to the group's Arcadia Camp for a day or two, to bid farewell to the people who raised them. . Justin is reluctant and angry, but Aaron insists they need emotional closure.
But once they have returned to Camp Arcadia, creepy things keep happening. No one seems to have aged, and everyone's smile seems a little false. Nominal camp leader Hal (Tate Ellington) and a member of the silent community named Dave (David Lawson Jr.) never seem to stop smiling. Anna (Callie Hernández), who appeared in the video of the ascension, makes clear her sexual interest in Aaron, even though she was one of the adults who raised him. The objects blink in and out of reality. Strange markers, somewhat like tall, narrow termite mounds, circle around several territories in the forest. And, finally, a series of signs marks the next ascension, and a decision that Justin and Aaron must make.

What is it really about?

Where the resolution was more obviously a meta-story about the act of telling stories (especially horror narration and horror film narration), The Endless focuses on repetition, the way people get into the furrows and the stories that tell themselves to justify those rudas.

Tribeca Film Festival

It's okay?
The Endless has its notable faults, and the edition is one of the largest. At first, especially, the script seems rushed, as if Benson were in a hurry to overcome the establishment of the character and continue towards the commune. The editing of those first scenes seems herky-abrupt and confusing, with the physical action advancing at a different pace of conversation. At the other end of the film, there is some repetition, with the biggest revelation that comes several times, which is thematically appropriate, but frustrating.
Putting aside these setbacks, The Endless quickly evolves from a mysterious and elliptical story about cult survivors and tense relationships to a much larger and more bizarre film, essentially Alien's original Al Resolution. Benson comes up with some genuinely mysterious and uncomfortable ideas that play well on the screen. Main among them: "The Struggle", a Camp Arcadia ritual where community members use a giant rope to play tug-of-war with an invisible presence in the dark outside the camp. It is presented as a joyful team building exercise, and it is clearly symbolic for them, but there are endless discomforts in the scenes where people act as if it were perfectly normal to pull a rope that disappears into a dark blackness, with a feeling of being invisible monumental. presence at the other end.

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And Moorhead and Benson make smart use of digital special effects micro-budget to create phenomena real enough to be supernatural. As oddities accumulate around the commune, the effects slowly increase in intensity. Some are as simple as a second moon that suddenly appears in the sky. Others are more disturbing. And they increase in a clever way, since the film goes from zero budget horror ("I just saw something terrible off screen" tactics, essentially) to a much more sophisticated level of global reconstruction. Viewers who have not seen the Resolution may get lost in some of the plot twists. But fans of Moorhead and Benson's work will not want to miss out on the way they use the previous film to create and subvert expectations here, and to expand their mythology in a way that increasingly resembles David's original Twin Peaks Lynch.
What should be qualified?
PG-13. It is a mental horror, not a physical horror, although there is some blood, some quite intense shocks and a lot of existential angst.
How can I see it?
The Endless is currently in a limited theatrical career. Visit the movie's website to see the cities and theaters where you are playing.

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