Google “brewpub and” and you’ll find “brewpub and kitchen,” “brewpub and café,” and eventually “brewpub and bowling alley.”
In The Endless, you’ll find a brewpub and cult. This Twilight Zone-y chiller follows brothers Aaron Smith (Aaron Moorhead) and Justin Smith (Justin Benson) back to the beer-centric cult/commune (it doesn’t have a name, or a leader) they escaped a decade earlier.
The organizing principles of the collective are initially obscure, but one thing is plain enough: the mechanism that sustains the operation is a brewery. They grow the barley, make the beer, sell a bit, drink a lot – sitting around the fire at night, singing karaoke, hanging out.
Here the movie edges toward social satire. If these bearded men in untucked gingham/tartan/plaid shirts, working up the nerve to talk to the women, drinking lager and spouting B.S. about C.S. Lewis and H.P. Lovecraft are a cult, then so are most of the corner bars in metropolitan America.
So why did the brothers flee in the first place?
That’s what the younger Aaron wants to know. He has fonder memories of the place, and has been unsuccessful in “normal” society. When the group sends him a video message signaling something important is going to happen to the members, he persuades the suspicious Justin to return, so as to tie up emotional and psychological loose ends.
The setup is actually the movie’s weakest feature (aside from the title card, which hints at a little too much), but once The Endless starts to explore the underlying nature of the collective, the movie gathers momentum and a respectable degree of mounting dread.
The Endless is inventive and imaginative in a low-budget, DIY way – it has some of the do-a-lot-with-a-little spirit of those early Brit Marling independents (multiple moons appear over the compound, recalling the twin planets of Another Earth).
In other places, it shows the influence of David Lynch – surreal interludes of stabby musical fragments, garbled language, jarring images. And like a Lynch movie, it offers room for supporting players to pop in and contribute entertainingly eccentric performances – James Jordan (Wind River) gets a few fun minutes as a hermetic weirdo who has clues to the metaphysical riddles of the situation in which the brothers find themselves.
Moorhead and Benson wrote, directed, photographed and edited The Endless, and that multitasking is so impressive I almost hesitate to mention that they aren’t especially convincing as brothers, which detracts a bit form the movie’s emotional engagement and its resolution.
But The Endless works on its own modest spooky-kooky terms, and also as a rumination on life’s ruts and patterns, best considered over a couple of beers.
- Directed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson. With Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson, Lew Temple, Tate Ellington, James Jordan and Emily Montague. Distributed by Well Go USA.
- Parents guide: Not rated
- Running time: 1 hour, 48 mins.
- Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse