'The Endless' film review: Refreshing sci-fi thriller satisfies patient viewers
The indie science-fiction horror flick "The Endless" (opening in additional select cities April 27) is a journey deeper and deeper into a seemingly tranquil commune’s warped nightmare.
In short: Years after escaping a UFO death cult, two brothers return looking for closure - only to discover that the group's beliefs may be more sane than they once thought. Stars Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead and Callie Hernandez.
"The Endless" is completely okay with just throwing its audience into an established mystery without providing a lot of answers upfront. The film creates an air of mystery surrounding its characters, the cult and some other force and drops intriguing hints alluding to something being very off about the cult and the compound. Ranging from patently odd behavior - people with vacant, thousand-yard stares or unyielding grins - to the truly unexpected, the story establishes the extent of the community's weirdness. And the oddity isn't limited to people acting strangely - there are things that occur on the compound that flat-out defy the laws of space and time. What sets "The Endless" apart from most apparently convoluted mysteries is its confidence in its own high concept plot and its reluctance to condescend to the audience.
Tantalizing breadcrumbs are dropped through the story, however, general audiences might not be patient enough to go along for the byzantine ride. "The Endless" respects audience enough to not lay out all the answers in a nice clean package - which also makes it confusing enough to put off some impatient viewers who would prefer to be spoon-fed exposition. Patience is rewarded for this original and heady journey into the truly weird.
The relationship between the brothers forms the story's dramatic framework - which forces the two main characters to carry the film on their backs. Co-directors Benson and Moorhead would have better served their story if they had hired two more experienced actors for the co-leads. Given the increasingly bizarre plot and the film's reliance on its two protagonists, Benson and Moorhead are serviceable lead actors - but more nuanced performances would have better anchored the film. The crazy plot twists are somewhat dulled by a pair of OK but not great or engrossing lead performances.
As the story unfolds, the stakes become much higher - but some oddly placed banter sprinkled throughout hurts the film's overall momentum. "The Endless" works best when it's focused on the moment - but the film has some fat to trim in the way of pointless banter. A film already this convoluted does itself no favor by throwing in needless chitchat that neither advances the story or fleshes out the characters. Trimming this excess would sharpen the film's focus as well as tighten its pacing. Again, the script isn't beleaguered with hours of pointless dialogue - but its just enough to make the difference between a film that moves and a film that, at times, stalls to make room for some cutesy dialogue.
Final verdict: An increasingly mind-bending thriller, "The Endless" is a refreshingly original and bizarre ride.
"The Endless" is now playing in select cities. This sci-fi horror film has a running time 111 minutes and is unrated.