The Endless’ premise is certainly intriguing: as kids, two brothers managed to escape a UFO death cult, only to return as adults after receiving a strange videocassette that seems to disprove the cult’s evilness. One brother is reluctant to go back, while the other is excited to see some familiar faces and experience some relief from their lonely, mundane lives.
Once they arrive at the cult’s compound, however, nothing is quite what it seems. For starters, the sinister-sounding cult actually looks more like a harmless hipster KOA campground (they even brew their own craft beer). And yet, strange phenomena dot the rugged landscape. To say much more would delve into spoiler territory, and yet The Endless is such a weird and fascinating experience to watch that I don’t think it really can be spoiled.
While The Endless is frequently billed as a horror movie, what with the UFO death cult and all, that term actually undersells it. It’s certainly creepy in many places as the brothers sense something lurking out there in the countryside, or confront each other over the cult members’ odd behavior. But the usual horror tropes and clichés — e.g., jump scares, blood and gore — are next to nonexistent.
Instead, The Endless is all about creating a tense, ominous atmosphere as the brothers slowly comprehend the reality in which they find themselves. Some of that may be due to the film’s obviously small budget, but directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (who also play the brothers, and by the film’s end, convey a convincing and affecting relationship) do a lot with what they’ve got in terms of production and special effects.
The more I think about The Endless, the more I’m reminded of films like Donnie Darko, Ink, and Primer — delightfully and intriguingly weird films that flout genre lines and transcend their modest means with cleverness, ideas, and imagination.