Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead, the science fiction thriller The Endless (2017) follows Justin and Aaron, brothers, as they return to a cult they escaped as children after receiving a mysterious video message from the camp. As they spend a few nights with the cult, Justin and Aaron start to find that the supernatural cult claims might be true. They notice unexplainable forces; the reflection of the moon in the air, the phases of a third moon, and other individuals around the camp area that can’t die. They commit suicide but come right back to life. Justin and Aaron try to escape but because of the supernatural force, they are delayed. After trucking through the surrounding areas of the camp, Justin and Aaron find out what the supernatural force truly is, and make their way back to the camp to jump start their car and get out of the area before the third moon is full.
I enjoyed this film very much, it was different than I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised. I initially though that the film would be slightly more familiarly uncanny in its reference to Satanism, however, this film in the end is nothing about a cult. The audience is lead to believe that the camp is a cult, but we come to find out that everyone is suck in an invisible dome where their lives are on repeat, an endless loop where once they die they immediately come back to life. In which is caused by the supernatural force that looms above the camp and the rest of the dessert. Although I wasn’t expecting this narrative plot, I do think that this film is exceptionally original, and places the audience in an uncanny setting that forces the audience to engage in the film and figure out what is truly happening at and around the camp ourselves.
The cinematography of The Endless I wasn’t particularly a fan of. I thought the opening scene was a little bit too drained, and I felt that it did not match the opening introduction and acting of Justin and Aaron. As the film went on the cinematography got better, however, I didn’t think that it was coherent throughout the film, there were changes in the lighting but it did not correlate to the narrative. Moreover, the only cinematically beautiful scene was when Justin and Aaron are walking on the hill through the monstrous statues and we can see ridges of hazy mountains in the background. Although this is a magnificent scene, it did not match the rest of the film’s cinematography and aesthetic. I felt that the cinematography fluctuated too much, losing the audiences potential engagement, because we kept being reminded that we were watching a film through the inconsistent lighting.
Talking to my mom after watching this film, she asked my thoughts on whether the camp was truly a cult or not. I do not think that the camp was a cult at all, even though the camp and its people seemed very suspicious as though they were hiding something, and did “cult-like” things, I do not believe that they are your stereotypical cult, or anywhere remotely close to a cult status. They are stuck in an endless loop and are controlled by a terrifying supernatural force. I believe that the members of the camp wanted to warn Justin and Aaron to leave, but after their escape many years ago when they told the press that the camp is a cult, the supernatural force got very mad, I think. In which when Justin and Aaron returned they were led by the supernatural force to go to the bottom of the lake and get a video tape. After watching the tape, they find that it is the interview of Justin and Aaron telling the press that the camp is a cult. After they storm out of the dining hall Hal, one of the main members of the camp, tells Justin and Aaron that the tape is the supernatural force’s forgiveness towards what happened. I do not believe this; I think that the tape was a warning and a reminder to those of the camp for what Justin and Aaron did. In which, in the last scene of the film, when Hal and the rest of the camp members stand and look to see if Aaron and Justin escaped after just being obliterated by the force, we see Hall smirk. I think this shows that Hall is happy that Justin and Aaron were able to escape the force and the hell that him and all the other people in the camp and surrounding areas have been living. Although the ending is ambiguous, I think that adds to the films uncanniness, and inability to truly understand the supernatural force. Leaving it up to the audience. In which we must sit and think about everything we just learned about the camp and the supernatural force, putting the piece together to figure everything out for ourselves.
Although this film defied my expectations of what the narrative plot would be, The Endless was nonetheless an amazing film that is truly original and unique. I would certainly recommend this film to others. You are immensely engaged in the narrative, trying to figure out what is happening in this uncanny setting, and why and what this supernatural force is, even days after first watching the film.