The Endless film review: Benson and Moorhead return with a spellbinding SF

Two brothers return to the cult they escaped from as teenagers and find more than they bargained for in The Endless

They say you can never go home again, but for brothers Justin and Aaron (played by filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead), it’s more a question of “should we?” The past is never as simple as you remember it, and the real treat about The Endless is that even the canniest genre expert will be surprised by the what’s lying in wait for these two in the hills of Southern California.

When a videotape from the commune/UFO doomsday cult they escaped from as teenagers arrives in the mail, Aaron takes it as a sign that they should go back. He’s begun to romanticise the place in the years since they left and he resents the way they live now, living on packs of noodles and scrabbling just to make rent. Justin has absolutely no interest in returning but agrees to a brief weekend trip to make his brother happy.

Benson and Moorhead are playing with our expectations play with our expectations from the get-go. We know that there’s something sinister going on here (it’s a cult, after all, and we all know how that goes), but it’s easy to understand why Aaron is happy to be back. These people seem kind and friendly, the setting is beautiful and simple, and the only bitterness seems to be reserved for Justin, whose actions while leaving the first time round did a lot of damage.

But it’s not very long before things begin to drift into the uncanny. We get little glimpses of…something, and the exact nature of the higher power that this group believes in begins to come into focus. It’s intricately constructed and the filmmakers continue to demonstrate a great ability to create an atmosphere of uncertain reality. What’s more, the explanation isn’t the be all and end all for the film, it only opens up more avenues for exploration. While there’s no room for the gooey creature fun of Spring, there’s a very ambitious and beautifully constructed concept, rooted in a personal and profound question that the two brothers will have to face. It’s also worth noting that Benson and Moorhead also acquit themselves very well in the leads and provide the emotional anchor the film needs.

This is another hugely impressive effort from two of the most exciting filmmakers working in the genre right now. Take a chance and take the trip, you won’t regret it.