Notes From Fantasia: The Endless (2017)

As Fantasia Festival quickly draws to a close, I regret not taking an entire month off to attend screenings (and visit patisseries and gorge myself on St-Viateur bagels). But, I digress.

Last night, I took in 2017’s The Endless, the third effort by two-man filmmaking dream team Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Resolution, Spring). I was absolutely delighted by Justin’s inventive SF/horror script – the story follows a pair of brothers (played by Benson and Moorhead) who, after escaping from a “UFO death cult” called Camp Arcadia 10 years prior, are dissatisfied with their lives as poverty-stricken house cleaners. When one brother starts to romanticize their former cult life and wonder if life would have been better had they stayed, they return for a visit, only to discover that the group’s bizarre beliefs may not have been so crazy after all.

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The film does an excellent job of building up its characters, both in terms of the leads and of the members of Camp Arcadia, whose various motivations and agendas remain vague for the first half of the film as the sinister mystery slowly grows around them. When the weird things begin to happen, they aren’t what you would expect – benign yet inexplicable occurrences that aren’t easily waved away soon lead to more dramatic and chilling phenomena. The explanation, when it is finally uncovered, is a compelling one – the world created is full of extraordinarily fascinating possibilities and I would love to see a future film that deals with alternate stories within it.

It’s a slow burn, but a funny one – the script is full of clever one-liners and the performances are charismatic. Apart from Moorhead and Benson, the cast is rounded out by Cassie Hernandez (Alien: Covenant and Blair Witch), Tate Ellington (Sinister 2), and Lew Temple (The Walking Dead), each of whom does a wonderful job as Camp Arcadians. Fans of Resolution will get a very pleasant surprise midway through the film, but I won’t be the one to give away the details.

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While the film does contain one potentially major plot hole that seems to contradict some of the internal logic of the SF elements, but I was able to easily gloss it over during a post-film bus ride conversation – a conversation which also addressed a number of delicious ambiguities and some of the rich symbolism of the story. This is a movie made for sparking conversation. See it with a friend and make time for drinks and discussion afterward.

The Endless is looking at an early 2018 release date.

Rating: 8 out of 10 moons.

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