Fantasy, horror and sci-fi often rely on a purity of concept for their major thrust. Others strive instead to foreground the pressures and effects of the realities they engender. The latter does not necessarily make for a better film, but it is a much greater challenge to produce with integrity. In The Endless, directors and stars Aaron Scott Moorhead and Justin Benson do just this: they produce a solid, structured mythology fleshed out with real human drama.
Brothers Aaron and Justin escaped a cult ten years ago. Finding themselves deadbeat in a cyclical hand-to-mouth existence, they are soon seduced by their past existence and return for a brief visit to their erstwhile home. As a viewer, you cannot deny the allure of the wholesome normalcy the pair recapture, even as you struggle with the eeriness on which the feature teeters.
There is a talent in Benson and Moorhead’s direction in creating this (quite literally) tremendous balance. Despite the supernatural occurrences, the movie hardly ever feels stylised or heavy-handed. More than that, the humanity and the relationships that the picture captures are integrated well into its deeply psychological and thoughtful fabric.
Thematically, the brotherly dynamic merits real commendation here. Moorhead and Benson, like many siblings in cinema, share and clash over the very same suspicions and doubts that you can expect from the audience, and do so with a natural and wide-eyed simplicity. Tate Ellington also shows a great deal of range and sensitivity as the charismatic and scarred cult leader Hal.
It is hard to place this film in any singular genre box. It sits in the same sort of miasma one finds in horror, but has all of the philosophy and nuance of excellent fantasy. Even with strong competition from others this season, it feels like this year’s hottest horror feature. Allegorical and political, it stands out above all as a refined and considered work that will have you watching it again and again and again.
The Endless is released in select cinemas on 29th June 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Endless here: