THE ENDLESS Film Review

An Audacious Supernatural Thriller With an Audacious Sci-Fi Flourish? Or an Audacious Sci-Fi Movie Bristling with the Thrills of an Audacious Horror Movie?

THE ENDLESS is playing at the IFC Center tonight at 11 p.m.

You’re probably wondering, ‘What’s This?’

 

THE ENDLESSS grabs the audience’s attention from the very second the opening shot floods the screen, opening up to a suspicious package landing on the ground in front of the home of two brothers, Justin and Aaron Smith, former members of a UFO cult-commune.

Harsh shadows flood the corners of the frame, while a single beam of light shines down on the box from the left. Shots like this help emphasize what will be important to the story line. The directors, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, careful with place just the smallest indication of importance (like a lighting change or camera focus) on the shots they want the audience to pay extra attention to throughout the entirety of the film.

The story tells of the brothers Aaron and Justin about their experience of re-visiting the UFO death cult-commune where they fled a decade earlier. News stories about their perils gave them some notoriety. Now, 10 years later, they are seeking closure because of the ambiguity they feel about their experiences, segueing from contempt to guilt to love and feelings of harmony. Instead of gaining the closure they were hoping to find, the brothers end up re-evaluating the beliefs and recollections when they face inexplicable events at the camp where members of the cult-commune are preparing for the coming of a mysterious event even as the two brothers are vigorously trying to find the truth before their own fates become permanently enmeshed with the cult.

The cinematography at times seems amateurish, yet, there are redeeming scenes in sharp contrast. A scene of Justin at the home of a junkie whom he is asking for help is a great example. The camera provides a head on view of Justin and the junkie sitting on lawn furniture, while the dead body of the same junkie hangs in the background. A really haunting shot about the perplexing and conflicting realities taking place at the camp.

The camera acts as an invisible voyeur allowing the audience to experience the suspense and fears of the characters on scree. The soft lighting on the three bodies surrounded in darkness feeds into the eeriness of one scene. Another scene with haunting visuals shows Justin and Aaron furiously rowing away from something that attacked Justin underwater. The camera jumps to a birds-eye-view of the boat with the two men in a panic. The camera zooms out revealing how insignificantly small they and their boat are in context of the large body of cloudy water. That shot adds to the suspense and adrenaline fueled moment.

Overall, the cinematography was arresting, especially the vistas of the rural open space and landscape but there were moments, maybe too many, with insufficient lighting was an irritation. There are several night scenes that are poorly illuminated. Although the movie is a thriller and spooky elements should be expected, there must have been other ways that could have been explored rather than just flooding shots with dark shadows. In one scene about 43 minutes into the film, when Justin is talking to the cult-commune leader outside a cabin at night and the the cult leader’s face can be barely seen. The backlighting is so overpowering, that the camera picks up more on the light behind the cult leader than on his face.

Yet, THE ENDLESS keeps the viewer wanting more. The movie is just under two hours yet it still feels short. Some audiences may crave another hour of drama and action. The movie an incredibly well done film that deserves “endless” amounts of praise.

 

[Editor’s Note: Some History of Heaven’s Gate]

 

 

Taylor Stanich can be reached at Taylor.Stanich03@myhunter.cuny.edu