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Two Brothers (Unwisely) Revisit an Old Cult in THE ENDLESS (Tribeca FF Review)

Two Brothers (Unwisely) Revisit an Old Cult in THE ENDLESS (Tribeca FF Review)

There’s something innately disconcerting about cults, which is why they often serve as the backdrop for some memorably effective indie thrillers. Highly disparate psychological thrillers such as The Sacrament, Jug Face, Holy Ghost People, Starry Eyes, Sound of My Voice, and Faults have all touched on the ominous side of cults in various ways, and now, here comes a decidedly fresh spin on the whole premise. Most movies of this sort are about people on their way out of a religious cult–in one way or another–whereas the offbeat, low-key, quietly fascinating The Endless (from the gents who gave us Resolution and Spring) focuses on a pair of aimless brothers who are seemingly intent on moving back into the cult lifestyle.

Now there’s an interesting wrinkle. The Endless is not about two brothers trying to escape from a freaky religion. They’re actually rejoining the same wacky crew they escaped from ten years earlier! Not only that, but Aaron and Justin (our co-directors are also our co-stars, and they do a damn good job on both counts) have been pretty damn vocal about the hardships they once withstood under the cult’s thumb, and they have no idea if they’ll be greeted with open arms or closed fists. There’s also the issue of a mysterious videotape that serves to kick-start the brothers’ fresh interest in their freaky old home…

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As they did with the cleverly askew Resolution and the unexpectedly touching Spring, Benson and Moorhead take a potentially familiar premise, shake it up with all sorts of novel themes and interesting ideas, and do all they can to keep the viewers on their toes. Of course we all know that returning to visit your old cult-mates is a bad idea–doubly so when you basically “betrayed” them in TV interviews–but if you’re expecting some sort of basic “drink the Kool-aid” premise or some standard occult/evil spirit material, well, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised by the smoothly circuitous and enjoyably unpredictable nature of The Endless.

Yes, it does get pretty darn creepy. It’s just that Benson and Moorhead have a decidedly unique way of telling a scary story, and it’s one that’s loaded with clever, insightful dialogue, and unexpectedly engaging moments of backstory and character development. There’s also a sly sense of humor that prevents The Endless from ever feeling obvious, conventional, dull, or, well, endless. If Spring was an unexpectedly romantic spin on “monster movie” conventions, then The Endless works remarkably well as a frank, honest, and insightful perspective on fraternal relationships. Also there’s a definite Lovecraft vibe going on at the old cult campgrounds and I just love it.

And just when you think you have the movie pegged, it takes some wonderfully strange left turns–none of which will be even remotely spoiled here–but suffice to say that if you’re a fan of this duo’s previous features then you’ll probably get a kick out of where The Endless winds up going. Benson and Moorhead continue to prove that they’re as capable in front of the camera as they are behind it, and The Endless marks their third fascinating genre film in as many tries. (Three and a third if you count their colorfully twisted short from V/H/S Viral.) Like Resolution and Spring, The Endless sort of defies easy description; it’s a “cult” thriller, a dramatic piece, a two-headed character study, and a quietly freaky Twilight Zone episode all rolled into one.

4.5 strange but undeniably compelling burritos out of 5

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Images: Snowfort Pictures

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