I can think of no finer film to end 2018 with than directors Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson‘s The Endless. In a year signifying a resurgence in horror, The Endless occupies the lower-end of the budgetary scale, yet doesn’t lack for quality.
The film opens with two brothers, Aaron and Justin, who live tepid, poor, and boring lives on the West Coast. The two, ten years ago, once lived with an oddly cheery cult at Camp Arcadia (located in some desolate area). Justin, Aaron’s older brother, escaped the cult with his younger brother when things began to feel a little too…well…cultish. However, Aaron, who left when he was very young, only has happy memories of the place. He persuades his brother to revisit Camp Arcadia, after they’re greeted by a 10-year old tape from the group.
When the brothers return to the cult, just to spend the night, they begin to notice strange occurrences around the camp. The occurrences are caused by an unseen monster who haunts the area, one capable of manipulating time. Moorhead and Benson—Moorhead acts as cinematographer, Benson writes, and both direct—possess an intriguing concept that they’ve built upon. The Endless joins as a companion piece to the filmmakers’ 2012 film, Resolution. Both works share the same characters and settings, yet each functions well as standalone films.
At the camp, the brothers find the same inhabitants as when they left. In fact, the people living there are so similar that they don’t appear to have aged during the intervening decade. There’s Hal (Tate Ellington), the quiet “leader” who’s been trying to solve the same physics equation for a decade, Tim (Lew Temple), a stoic bearded onlooker, a practicing magician named Shane (Shane Brady), and Anna (Callie Hernandez), who Aaron becomes especially close to. The inhabitants all have hobbies that they’ve come close to mastering. The result is a highly proficient in multiple areas Brady Bunch.
Aaro —who’s always had the trouble with women—becomes smitten with the camp, a place where he finally doesn’t feel like an outcast and might have a love interest in Anna. Nevertheless, older brother Justin begins to investigate. Justin discovers an angry hiker (James Jordan) who appears to be following him, a crying widow (Emily Montague), a best friend (Peter Cilella) attempting to sober up his companion (Vinny Curran) in a cabin, and an 18th century ghost (Ric Sarabia) who’s looped to smash his head against a wooden post. None of the oddities make sense—especially the two moons in the sky or the padlocked shed guarded by Tim—Justin just knows that he and Aaron have to leave.
The Endless isn’t like many other horror films of 2018, as it’s often wrapped in glib and deadpan humor. Knowing that they lack the budget to catch the eye of the viewer with bells and whistles, the mantle falls on Moorhead and Benson to deliver as actors. Sometimes their act can expose the bells and whistles the film lacks, causing amateurish overtones to creep in, however, their dedication to the material continually shines through. The biggest lesson of The Endless is how we can allow our lives to loop around in one shitty cycle until we cop out. The other subtle takeaway for young filmmakers should be that as long as you have a good idea, good writing, and good acting, then the budget can often be inconsequential. Either way, The Endless is a triumph of micro-budget, Sci-Fi, and dedicated filmmaking.