by Hope Madden
There is something very clever about the way Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead’s movies sneak up on you. Always creepy, still they defy genre expectations even as they play with them.
Camp Arcadia offers the rustic backdrop for their latest, The Endless. A clever bit of SciFi misdirection, the film follows two brothers as they return to the cult they’d escaped a decade earlier.
Just to visit.
Do you ever have those dreams where you find yourself back in your hometown and no matter how hard you try, you can’t leave? No? You must not be from Tiffin, Ohio.
Benson and Moorehead capture that particular panicked feeling, each slow-moving moment generating a louder and louder echo in your head, yelling: Why are you still here? Go already!
The other thing the directing pair creates with uneasy authenticity is that spotty forgiving and unforgiving bond between siblings.
The directors themselves play those siblings. Though Moorehead and Benson have had cameos in their previous films Spring and Resolution, as well as a handful of other horror flicks, The Endless, penned by Benson, is the first film they anchor.
Their acting chops are mainly solid, although perhaps not lead-worthy. Moorehead’s innocence and whining sometimes feel forced. Meanwhile, Benson’s character’s motivation is at times suspect, and he’s unconvincing as a sheltered, shell-shocked, co-dependent.
Though the lead performances sometimes undermine the agile storytelling, the turns the directors draw from their ensemble are strong across the board. Welcome familiar faces in a third-act surprise prove the filmmakers’ nimble skill with a fantasy storyline that could easily collapse on itself but never does.
It is this story and the pair’s storytelling skill that continues to impress. Their looping timelines provide fertile ground for clever turns that fans of the filmmakers will find delightful, but the uninitiated will appreciate as well.