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REVIEW: The Endless

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 02/26/2018

REVIEW: The Endless

Moorhead and Benson isn’t an accountancy firm, as the moniker might suggest. Together, the writing/directing/acting duo of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson have formed one of the most fascinating filmmaking forces to emerge over the last decade. The pair gained much acclaim for their second film, 2014’s Spring. A Lovecraft meets Linklater hybrid in which a young American falls for a mysterious Italian girl who is secretly a tentacled creature feeding off tourists, it’s one of the most romantic movies to ever come out of the horror genre.

In the films of Moorhead and Benson, humans struggling with earthly problems - grief, poverty, addiction - find there are forces greater than us at play in our world. The duo’s third film, The Endless, is a sequel to their 2012 debut Resolution. That movie tells the story of Mike (Peter Cilella), who receives a strange and worrying video that suggests his troubled junkie friend Chris (Vinny Curran) is on the verge of committing suicide. Mike tracks Chris down to a remote cabin, handcuffing his friend to the wall to force him into cold turkey. When Mike and Chris begin receiving inexplicable messages through various media forms, ranging from vinyl records to VHS tapes, they discover a strange unearthly force is at play in the surrounding area.

A seemingly throwaway scene in Resolution saw Mike stumble upon a group of men, members of a cult based in the locality. The Endless follows up on this moment, with two of the cult members - played by Moorhead and Benson using their own first names - living humdrum lives 10 years after fleeing the cult. As with Resolution, a video arrives in the post that seems to suggest the cult members are about to pull a Jonestown style mass suicide, and after much badgering, the younger Aaron encourages his weary older brother Justin to accompany him back to the commune they grew up in.

REVIEW: The Endless

On arrival, the cult seems like a typical commune setup, populated by people who probably couldn’t function in normal life, but it soon becomes apparent a supernatural power is present in the surrounding area.

This manifests itself in increasingly spooky and surreal ways, from two moons appearing in the sky, to characters finding themselves caught in time loops they can’t escape from. Unable to leave the commune as a result, Aaron and Justin struggle to find a solution to their predicament before the much prophesied appearance of a third moon destroys the world they’ve become trapped in.



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In both Resolution and The Endless, Benson and Moorhead draw from various sources. A lazy comparison would be David Lynch, particularly Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, but perhaps the most explicit influence is Alain Resnais’ surreal classic Last Year at Marienbad, which set the template for head-melting dramas in which characters become trapped between indefinable temporal and spatial boundaries. Both films also play like a very American riff on the very British folk-horror genre that was popular in the ‘70s. The cult aspect of The Endless makes it impossible not to think of The Wicker Man, but thematically, with its exploration of astrophysics, time loops and a supernatural force in the land itself, it appears to owe a heavy debt to the cult kids’ show Children of the Stones.

REVIEW: The Endless

The marketing for The Endless has been coy about its relationship to Resolution (understandable, given how few people saw Moorhead and Benson’s debut), but I can’t stress enough how you need to have seen the earlier film for this sequel to have its intended impact. Along with a wonderful reappearance by the protagonists of ResolutionThe Endless features many little nods that will make no sense to viewers coming in cold.

With the nature of time playing such a large role in this nascent possible series, it would make perfect sense for Moorhead and Benson to return at set intervals, like a surreal riff on Linklater’s Before... films. The Endless is that rare sequel that doesn’t just best its predecessor, but adds more layers to it. If this does grow into an ongoing series, I’m fully onboard.

4 ½  stars out of 5

 

Directed by: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead 

Starring: Callie Hernandez, Lew Temple, Tate Ellington, Emily Montague, James Jordan, Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead





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The Morris Museum Brings Back Exhibition On Screen series
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- The Morris Museum brings back a film series from Exhibition on Screen beginning on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 with the feature film Degas: A Passion for Perfection.  Two additional films will also be shown: Young Picasso, on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 and Rembrandt on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.  All films will be screened at 7:30pm in the Bickford Theatre.  
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies, presents the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 which marks the festival's 37th Anniversary.  The Festival will take place between January 25 and March 1, 2019. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 will feature over 35 film screenings. 
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Kean Stage Hosts "White Christmas" Sing-Along
(UNION, NJ) -- Kean Stage hosts a White Christmas Sing-Along on Sunday, December 16 at 3:00pm.  Gather your family and friends for this beloved 1954 holiday film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. You’ll enjoy singing along to Count Your Blessings, Snow, Sisters and, of course, the iconic White Christmas. And don’t worry if you don’t know the words – the lyrics will be shown on the screen.


REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"
For better or worse (worse in this writer’s eyes), the success of the Harry Potter franchise is largely responsible for the current Hollywood landscape of endless sequels, prequels and that awful phrase “universe building.” The Potter films showed Hollywood that it was a far safer financial model to hook audiences into returning for instalments of an ongoing series rather than taking a punt on the unknown quantity of original properties.
REVIEW: "Shoplifters"
Earlier this year, writer/director extraordinaire Hirokazu Kore-eda surprised us with The Third Murder, a legal thriller that made for a stark departure from the sentimental family dramas he’s become known for. With his Palme d’Or winning Shoplifters, Kore-eda is back on familiar ground, but this particular family drama shares much in common with The Third Murder. With his thriller, Kore-eda deconstructed the genre, forcing us to question how willingly we place our trust in a storyteller. Similarly, Shoplifters sees Kore-eda lull his audience into a false sense of security, making us develop a warmth and affection towards people who may not warrant such empathy.
REVIEW: "First Man"
The image that most defines the 20th century is that of a man standing on the surface of the moon. The man is astronaut Neil Armstrong, but we can’t see his face as he’s wearing a helmet, the glass of which reflects our collective achievement back at us. When he took a small step, we all took a giant leap with him, and Armstrong instantly became more than a mere man, a symbol. With First Man, director Damien Chazelle takes us inside the famous helmet, stripping away the symbol to tell the story of Armstrong the man.
REVIEW: "Halloween"
In 2013, John Carpenter’s Halloween received a 35th anniversary blu-ray release. The accompanying booklet credited the following line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitting heroine Laurie Strode: “Was it the boogeyman?” Of course, that’s a misquote. In the scene in question, Laurie admits to herself that “It WAS the boogeyman,” to which Donald Pleasence’s Doctor Loomis solemnly replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.”
REVIEW: "Cold War"
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Event calendar
Sunday, Dec 09, 2018


MUSIC

CHINA CRISIS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 6:00pm

Sensational Soul Cruisers Holiday Show @ iPlay America, Freehold - 4:00pm

Scott, Garner, Gray, Says Jimmy Baldwin @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 7:00pm

The GLEN MILLER ORCHESTRA @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 3:00pm

The Weight Band – Featuring members of The Band and Levon Helm Band @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 7:30pm

The Met Opera: Marnie (Encore) @ Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 1:00pm







THEATRE

Elf, The Musical @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 2:00pm

A Christmas Story @ Pax Amicus Castle Theatre, Budd Lake - 2:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm

Seussical @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 2:00pm

Peter Pan @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 1:00pm and 5:00pm

Annie: The Musical @ Centenary Stage Company - Sitnik Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 2:00pm

Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn @ Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - 1:30pm and 7:00pm

A Wonderful Life @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 7:00pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

A Charlie Brown Christmas @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 1:30pm and 3:30pm


KIDS

Breakfast with Santa @ iPlay America, Freehold - 9:30am

PAW Patrol Live! “Race to the Rescue” @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 10:00am and 2:00pm and 6:00pm


MISC

CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 2:00pm

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