Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson's third film, The Endless, is their best. 2012's Resolution and 2014's Spring were promising efforts but this feels like the film they have been working up to for some time. Centered around two brothers, The Endless fully embraces their love of Lovecraftian storytelling.
It would make sense that what feels like their most realized effort would also star them. It speaks to the care and personal nature of the story. Brothers Aaron (Moorhead) and Justin Smith (Benson) were once members of a bizarre cult before Justin led them in an escape. Now grown up, they scrape by cleaning houses and eating packaged dinners. Their past comes back to them in the form of a tape they receive in the mail from a member of the cult. Aaron, who views their time there as the best years of their life, convinces Justin to go back to Camp Arcadia.
One of the film's most interesting dynamics is how each brother views things at Camp Arcadia. To Aaron, it is a return home to a better place from their dismal life. For Justin, this place was a living nightmare and he sees suspicious things all around. He only goes back for his brother. Justin has a skewed version of the people of Arcadia. He thinks they are all castrated weirdos who worship UFOs. He is quickly confronted by his beliefs.
As the film unfolds, it twists and turns and plays with time in extremely clever ways that are also rooted in real emotions. The brothers start to have déjà vu. There is a giant thing underneath the lake. There are totems posted marking different pathways. How all of this adds up is a joy to watch. The filmmakers have a real knack for low-budget but extremely effective horror elements. The film even manages to be a sequel of sorts to their first film. All of this creativity and thought-provoking filmmaking are hard to resist, even if the film is paced deliberately. One has to imagine this is a film that would make H.P. Lovecraft proud.