Writer-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead play brothers struggling to forge a life outside the UFO death cult that raised them when a video-taped message prompts them to pay a return visit before the group’s “ascension.” Spoilers follow.
I remember my first watch. It was during the film’s theatrical run. A onetime show at the Alamo Drafthouse as part of their film club. I attended because Benson and Moorhead’s first film, Resolution, impressed me, and the thought of those filmmakers doing Lovecraftian horror involving a UFO cult sounded amazing.
Watching the film, I loved how it retained Resolution’s smart dialog, and creeping dread. But I gasped aloud when Benson walked into Resolution and I realized The Endless was a sequel.
Except it’s not a sequel. More like an adjacent story that expands and enhances Resolution, without requiring the viewer to have seen it. I can’t recall a similar film. Back to the Future Part II comes to mind, but doesn’t fit. Nor does New Nightmare.
Indeed, Benson and Moorhead have charted new ground. Resolution felt like a self-contained story, but The Endless reveals it as a mid-chapter in a larger book.
Both films explore themes of control with The Endless presenting older brother Benson dominating the younger Moorhead. Like Mike in Resolution, Justin dilutes noble intentions with suspect methods.
Or does he? The Endless expands the notion of control to include a higher power and the duality of comfort and horror such a being’s existence would engender. At one point, Moorhead says of Benson:
I mean, he’s trying. He’s trying lots of things, but this one time, by some miracle, we met these girls at the park, and he takes ‘em to this cheap Mexican food place, down by the apartment. And, out of, like out of, like, nervousness or something, he’s like, “I’m an ex-UFO death cult member.” And she’s like, “Okay, I have to go to the bathroom.” And she obviously never comes back.”
Is Benson struggling or is the film hinting that Benson’s actions aren’t his own? That free will may be an illusion? As the film posits, “Can you have power over yourself, if you give up any amount of authority to something else?”
The horror runs deep.
Benson and Moorhead also continue the metaphor of filmmaking itself. Resolution’s allegory of filmmakers struggling to finish a film becomes The Endless’s allegory of filmmakers realizing that finishing just means starting over again.