The Endless (NR)

Horror 112 min. April 6, 2018
By Simon Abrams
Shout-out to editor Michael Felker — who collaborated in the cutting room with multihyphenate co-helmer/co-editor duo Justin Benson and Aaaron Moorhead — for literally setting the unnerving pace of creepy supernatural drama The Endless. The atmospheric Lovecraft-inspired horror film follows two brothers who reluctantly rejoin religious cult Camp Arcadia after years of unsuccessful social deprogramming.

Felker and his collaborators give viewers a window into the surreal post-Arcadia lives of skeptical provider Justin (Benson, who also co-wrote) and his stubborn, naive younger sibling Aaron (co-director–cinematographer-editor Aaron Moorhead) just by speeding up almost every preliminary scene that's set outside of the camp's desert compound.

The rat-a-tat tempo of The Endless' opening sharply contrasts with the slower clip of any scene where Aaron and Justin are heedlessly enjoying Arcadia’s fine fishing, karaoke and hiking-related amenities. Viewers only really notice that time seems to be moving at a disjointed rate whenever Felker and his collaborators abruptly conclude a scene right before Justin and Aaron can work up the nerve to analyze the giant padlocks, mysterious videotapes and seemingly ageless residents that give the cult its eerie character.

The film's fast-slow-fast pacing not only gives psychological weight to Benson's unabashedly pulpy scenario but also constantly keeps viewers on their toes. A smash-cut conclusion adds a gutting question mark to the scene where Justin begs Aaron to consider why, during an abortive round of target practice, all of his gun's bullets seem to flatten in midair against an invisible barrier. And a slow, uninterrupted zoom-in on a chalkboard covered with mathematical symbols makes an ordinary physics equation look as alien as Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead Callie Hernandez, Tate Ellington, Lew Temple, Emily Montague, James Jordan Justin Benson Well Go USA Entertainment

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