Sunday, 22 July 2018

The Endless

Cthulhu Hoops

The Endless
USA 2017
Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
Arrow Blu Ray Zone 2

Warning: Some spoilers on this one, I guess.

Okay... so all I can say is that I’m really glad that I saw these two director’s movie Resolution (which I reviewed right here) before I saw this one. As it turns out, the low key approach that it shares a couple of characters and ideas with that earlier film is like saying The Empire Strikes Back shares some characters and ideas with the original Star Wars (resubtitled Episode IV: A New Hope for modern, post 1977 audiences). The Endless is less a shared universe movie and more a direct sequel to the original. The directors play the main protagonists in this one, who were minor characters in the first, using their own christian names as character names. However, the two main protagonists of the last film are seen in a sizeable sequence towards the end of this film too. This one also, kinda, explains what was happening to these two, how... or at least why... the artefacts that made up that story kept appearing and also, although set ten years or so after the first film, we get director Aaron Moorhead’s character Aaron watching the sequence we saw where Mike first arrives at the cabin in Resolution. Which will make more sense once you see The Endless.

Furthermore, although it’s a direct sequel, it’s a little bit like a rerun or almost a partial remake, in some ways, of the first and one wonders if the two directors are just reworking their ideas in a greater exploration of the Lovecraftian stew they concocted for Resolution. Indeed, The Endless starts right off the bat with a direct quote from writer H. P. Lovecraft, as though the two are instantly stating their alignment with the ideas, or at least style, of that writer for the audience... wearing their influences on their sleeve in pursuit of a more 'up front' movie than the first, perhaps.

The film starts in a very similar manner to the first but, in this instance, after escaping from a weird ‘UFO Death Cult’ ten years or so prior to the events in the film, Justin is sent some video tape footage which forces him to track down some old hardware to play it on at a local boot sale. I actually like the fact that the writing allows for the obsolescence of the technology to require effort to access it in the first place and I saw a similar ode to obsolescence played out in a scene in the combined Ringu/Ju On sequel Sadako VS Kayako a couple of years ago (which desperately needs a subtitled physical release in the UK instead of a stupid, corporate streaming version... my review of the Frightfest screening of the film can be found here). I also liked that buying the technology to access this means that Justin sacrificed the money saved for buying a new car battery and this will have consequences, or at least complicate things for the two characters, further on down the line.

After seeing footage of one of the people at the cult, Justin convinces Aaron to take them back for a visit and so the two go, only to find that all the people they used to know are somehow un-aged over time and with a, mostly, welcoming attitude. And there are some nice sequences in here...

Such as the felt (rather than seen) presence of some large, Cthulhuian monster roaming around the landscape and a tug of war game with, probably, the same creature. And the odd appearance of artefacts utilising what can only be likened to ‘missing time’ in the main characters. Also, it’s hard for our characters not to notice that there are now two moons in the sky in the area they’ve gone to... explained as a naturally occurring, mirage style phenomena by members of the cult. It’s nicely done, though and is possibly the most interesting effect in the whole movie. This is coupled with some cool design transitions every now and again focusing on circular shapes which hints at what is really going on here.

However, when those double moons I mentioned suddenly become three moons, things start to go wrong for our heroes, who have become separated from each other due to an argument and who are now wandering around the local landscape trying to find each other. However, what they find instead is... time loops created by the ‘ancient unspeakable presence’ that we glimpsed (or quite noticeably didn’t glimpse, in actual fact), at the end of the last movie. Loops where people are trying to break their personal cycles... whether they last months, seasons, years or, in one case, literally a few seconds, by killing themselves in various ways. Furthermore, the two central characters from the last movie are more than aware now they must be caught in one of these time loops and Aaron, kindly, doesn’t let Mike know that his wife, played once again by Emily Montague, is actually in the commune a mile or so away and very much in a kind of loop herself, one must assume.

The film has the same stylistic traits of the previous, with small, almost imperceptible hand held camera movement a lot of the time and lots of light contrasting with a slightly subdued colour palette. There is actually a score for this one by Jimmy Lavalle although, a lot of the time, it’s kept quite minimal. The acting is all pretty great and, joining the directors along with Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran from Resolution, we have some good supporting cast such as Callie Hernandez and Tate Ellington doing some nice work here.

And... I don’t really have too much more  to say about it than that. It’s less subtle than the first movie, perhaps a little over the top at times with a run time which could maybe have been cut by 20 minutes or so once all the points have been made. Like the first one, however, it rambles along at its own pace and, although I have nothing against films that take their time, I did find this one dragging just a little towards the end. If you liked Resolution then you’re probably going to really like The Endless because, I think, despite it being a bit more overt with its portrayal of events, it’s a slightly better movie than the first. That being said, I definitely think you’ll have a far richer experience and appreciation of this film if you see Resolution first so, if you’ve not seen that one then I would definitely seek them out in chronological order. Both worth a watch for people who like low budget horror with a strong mystery element in the DNA of the films they are watching.

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