THE ENDLESS (2018, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead)
COHERENCE meets THE SACRAMENT in a low-fi/sci-fi mindfuck, that turns out to be a stealth sequel to RESOLUTION. If not a sequel, then at least some sort of B-side. RESOLUTION followed Mike and Chris, and had Aaron and Justin (the directors, playing brothers with the same first names they have in real life) as cameo characters for one scene. THE ENDLESS follows the Aaron and Justin part of the story, checking in on Mike and Chris for one scene. All four characters are played by the same four actors in both films — in this case, it’s problematic because Moorhead isn’t a good actor, and the film suffers when it relies on him to emote.
In following the Justin and Aaron characters this time around, the filmmakers delve into the UFO cult introduced in the first film, which serves as a bit of a red herring — yes there’s supernatural shit galore, but like with their previous (and best) feature SPRING, it’s really an opportunity to focus on a human theme. SPRING was a plea for sincerity in a cynical world, while THE ENDLESS is a meditation on how our choices can result in us living in a dead-end loop; a meaningless existence. The way out of this Sisyphus-ian boulder-roll is to own your actions and respect your relationships. I like how committed these guys are to their world view, and there’s a propulsive energy to this narrative. Wide-angle fisheye lenses and a 2.35:1 aspect ratio create arresting visuals in a nearly exclusively exterior location, intentionally disorienting and often striking. But it goes so far into its own wormhole of philosophical metaphors that it often comes off as a confused jumble of cool ideas with a lack of clarity. Still, even when they come up short, Benson & Moorhead never fail to deliver a weirdly compelling watch, well worth thinking about on the drive home and for days to come.