Cinema Quarantino is an ongoing series of alternative streaming picks for the self-quarantined and the socially distanced, as selected by the film staff of Boston Hassle. To browse the rest of our picks, click here!
THE FILM: The Endless (2017) dir. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
THE STREAMER: Netflix
By now, you’re probably adept in scrolling through streaming suggestions and cutting out the fat, if not through Cinema Quarantino’s sage advice, than by your own volition and ability to smell the bullshit. Netflix especially isn’t a great source to go offroad for the offbeat, since it seems that their formulaic prescriptions for finishing any movie lean toward popular audience watches or their original material (which can take more dedication to sift for the Bojack-type gems). So forgive me when I say that it feels like a moment of triumph to recommend CQ’s first movie from the Netflix platform, and it happens to be a movie about a cult.
However, for all of the genres that The Endless could fall under, “cult” feels tertiary. Foremost, it’s a…Lovecraftian thriller? Sci-fi horror? Truthfully, I do share a dissent for Netflix’s original cult content (eg Holy Hell, Wild Wild Country, that Bikram yoga one) primarily because of their uniform decision to use sexual abuse as the crux of shock value, but The Endless is able to subvert the re-imagined charisma of a spiritual dickhead leader and the rose-colored lens of a seemingly safe community. Sure, there’s a cult featured, but it refocuses to the strengths and willpower of the survivors while heightening the strange sickness of it all.
Justin and Aaron (respectively played by directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the latter also cinematographer) are brothers who escaped a cult and are now living a humdrum sort of life, trying to make ends meet. When they receive a mailed videotape from their old commune Camp Arcadia, Aaron wants to return back, believing that that time period was when they were the happiest. Justin is reluctant about the idea, but they both return with the original plan of staying for a night. And of course, there are two circles of ravens that are flying in different directions and it turns out that no one at the camp has aged since the brothers last saw them so you just know that things ain’t normal here.
Finding The Endless on Netflix was a stroke of luck and a lightning flash of recollection about some small blurb about innovative movies in the modern day (think Upstream Color). The movie can be just as enjoyable knowing that it belongs to a Benson-Moorhead universe (there are Easter eggs from their 2012 film Resolution, which is available on Prime and Tubi) as it is going blind into it, thinking cap optional. The director-cinematographer duo incorporates the self-aware knowledge of the cult allure with a mythological dread, where it feels like a perverse Escape the Room, and yet that comparison isn’t apt to describe the possible infinity of hell on camping grounds.
dir. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Now streaming on Netflix!