The Endless Limited Edition Review
It is perhaps fair to say that no other science fiction author is as influential as H.P. Lovecraft, the likes of Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and Stephen King have all counted Lovecraft as a major influence. Film-wise, Guillermo del Toro is perhaps his most famous fan, as he has been trying to adapt the mammoth Mountains of Madness for the big screen as long as anyone can remember. Regardless of whether you have read any of Lovecraft's incredibly dense prose yourself, you are probably still aware of his signature weird, existential, cosmic terror about beings beyond our own comprehension and imagination.
Despite the fact that Lovecraft continues to be cited within the sci-fi horror genre, it is rare that we actually get decent adaptations of his work. Yes, we had Re-Animator, but it is more grounded in the Mary Shelly Frankenstein style of horror with bringing the dead back from the grave without strange tentacled monstrosities crawling out of another dimension. Books are ambiguous, they suggest and infer, they can describe an event or thing, or they can choose not to. Film on the other hand is more definite, it requires solid tangibility, it shows rather than tells and when you come across the unimaginable horror in a film it becomes something imagined by someone else and it is never as maddeningly terrifying as you would have hoped, or as you may have originally read it. While no adaptation, The Endless starts with a Lovecraft quote: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown".
While the film is Lovecraftian in its weird sci-fi origins, it is also a grounded character drama about two brothers, Aaron and Justin Smith (played by Directors Moorhead and Benson) stuck in their lives. Aaron and Justin are cleaners living in Los Angeles when one day they receive a mysterious package containing a camcorder tape. After watching it they find that it is from the cult they fled from. After a lot of convincing by Aaron - who was too young to remember the weird stuff - the two decide to go back to the camp they left ten years ago.
Don't go into The Endless looking for out and out scares. Much like Lovecraft’s work, the film takes you on a journey that you need to be ever present for. It relies on an atmosphere that is built over time, one that will take you through various stages of horror, from unsettling and unnerving to straight up terrifying. However, if you don't let the film take you on that journey it is not going to be as effective, this is a slow burn, full of mystery, light on answers, reveals and heavy on implication and suggestion. Made all the more intense by a camera that slowly pans over desolate landscapes and where a blinding sun beats down on the baked earth. It is both beautiful and dangerous. The landscape almost becomes a character in itself and when the 'monster' is finally revealed you can see the motivation of the camera; which makes it all the more unnerving.
When we get to the second half of the film, The Endless starts to feel more like Alice in Wonderland, with our heroes exploring the desert and coming across interesting characters. This is were the film gets a bit more forthcoming with answers, although its occasional tendency to dump a lot of information on the audience does dampens the previous half's steady build of atmosphere somewhat. Similarly, it can be very inconsistent with the rules that it sets up, with the through line being the brothers' relationship and discovering that everything is not quite right in the desert.
However, this approach would not have worked if the two leads didn't knock it out of the park. Thankfully Benson and Moorhead clearly have too much talent for their own good, as well as writing, directing, editing and producing the film’s visual effects, they also star as Justin and Aaron. Both give understated and subtle performances that, like the story and the camera work, can only be appreciated through constant attention, as they communicate more with looks than they do with words. and the two of them together really ground the film in reality despite its high concept.
The Endless is perfectly crafted. Benson and Moorhead were able to do so much with such a small budget and, because they focus on a character driven drama above cheap scares and horror clichés, they have made something that deserves to be seen. Not only does it have compelling characters but it has a story that will make you ponder for days after watching it. This is a unique film that demonstrates the fact that you do not need a budget to make a decent film, and if you were in any doubt, watch 2015's Spring.
The best thing about the limited edition Blu-ray that Arrow Video has put together is that you get two films for the price of one. Plus, it is the film that The Endless is expanding upon, Resolution. Stylistically this earlier feature is very similar, as it should be, seeing as both are linked in a very specific way, and fully realise the scope of the story that Moorhead and Benson are telling.
Alongside the two companion pieces are tons of extras that range from commentary tracks from stars and filmmakers, behind-the-scenes documentaries, interviews, VFX breakdowns, deleted scenes and outtakes, to the more tongue-in-cheek additions such as practical jokes, audition tapes and a commentary track provided by Carmel the Dog. This somehow makes the release seem more personal, more tailored to Benson and Moorhead’s sensibilities rather than the standard big release extras that can feel stale and repetitive. With the 1080p quality visuals and DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio with subtitles and a menu that should be familiar to all those who own an Arrow release.
The Endless is one film that you owe it to yourself to own, if you are a horror fan, or just want to support new and independent artists.
The Endless is released in UK Cinemas and VOD on June 29, and available on DVD and Blu-ray from July 2.