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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a poem of origin, so, inspired by the time loops in this film, I focused on how where we’re going might mirror where we’ve been.)

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Is darkness our friend?
They say we came from darkness.

We’ve grown up searching for the light
From friends both fickle and contrite,
From dogs that lick and dogs that bite,
And lies that distance and unite.

It feels as though our life’s a loop,
A track so many have run before,
From more to less and less to more,
And ere our ship returns to shore,
Our time is short, but we explore.

The light’s the loop,
The dark’s the end,
They say we’re headed for darkness.
Is darkness still our friend?

MPAA rating:  Not Rated (R for the language and some violence, though there’s much worse out there)

Not being a huge fan of horror, I’ll admit I’m not very familiar with the works of H.P. Lovecraft, a name I’ve noticed becoming more and more popular lately. What constitutes Lovecraftian horror is new to me, but from what I understand, it deals with terrifying cosmic powers beyond the scope of human understanding, or basically fear of the unknowable. If that’s right, The Endless might be the best example I’ve seen, a fascinating and slow-burning mystery with an undercurrent of paranoia and weirdness.

Two brothers Justin and Aaron (played by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who also directed and split work on writing, editing, and cinematography) are struggling with normal life some years after escaping from a so-called “UFO death cult” out in the desert. Aaron remembers their time there as one of stability and plenty and wishes to return, and, though Justin is dead-set against it, he agrees to briefly visit their former home after a mysterious video arrives. Strangely, very little seems to have changed, but the longer the brothers stay, the more uncanny events seem to happen, portending a great danger that might be inescapable.

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I won’t pretend to claim that I completely understood the film’s plot, but The Endless is well-acted and has intrigue to spare, with mysteries and fear piling on top of each other and most of the questions left largely unanswered by the end. Yet it’s very much a case of what you don’t see being scarier than what you do; there’s not really any nightmarish imagery, more foreboding and unease. A prime example is when the brothers are invited to pull on a rope as one of the community’s confidence exercises. The rope stretches off into the darkness as each person plays tug-of-war with something, with the chill factor coming from the lack of knowing what that something is.

As the film goes on, it enters a wilder side of science fiction, with time loops and fractured dimensions that challenge the mind and don’t provide easy answers, if any, but through it all, the brotherly bond between Justin and Aaron proves to be a strong human element to ground the craziness. I’m curious now to check out one of Benson and Moorhead’s previous films called Resolution, which apparently expands on one of the subplots from this movie, or vice versa. (Fans of theirs were no doubt happy to spot the connection.)

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Like Chronesthesia, The Endless is an example of multitasking filmmakers making the most of a limited budget and delivering a surprisingly solid product; the special effects are especially well-done for an independent film. It’s also one of those movies worth rewatching and discussing with others, if only to understand it better, though perhaps that lack of full comprehension is both the point and the appeal.

Best line: (an anonymous quote displayed at the beginning) “Friends tell each other how they feel with relative frequency. Siblings wait for a more convenient time, like their deathbeds.”


Rank: List Runner-Up


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