REVIEW: THE ENDLESS (2018)

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THE ENDLESS (2018)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Brothers Justin and Aaron (directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead) escaped a strange cult ten years ago and their lives have never been the same since. Despite Justin’s negative suspicions about Camp Arcadia, Aaron suggests they go back for a visit to say goodbye and get closure. Soon after arriving, the two start to experience some very strange phenomena and begin to wonder if the mysterious deity the cult worships might actually be real and this outwardly serene place may hold some unearthly secrets.

Fans of Benson and Moorhead’s first feature Resolution may be happy to know their latest collaboration is set in the same universe and is almost a sequel, as familiar characters do appear and Benson and Moorhead play the same cultists from that film. If you haven’t seen that flick, this one plays just fine, as those elements aren’t necessary to appreciate the subtly unsettling story here. The film is it’s own thing, though if you enjoy this chiller, you might want to check Resolution out. While well written, if there is any part of Justin Benson’s script that was a bit hard to accept, it was that two people would want to go back to a cult they escaped for a visit…though Aaron seems far more eager to revisit than the cynical Justin. There is some creepy stuff here as Aaron starts to question why he left, especially when reunited with the pretty Anna (Callie Hernandez) and Justin starts to believe that this “thing” they worship has those in it’s domain in a kind of continual loop. It gets really weird and it actually works that we aren’t spoon-fed any answers and left to ponder things a bit as the credits roll. The directing duo gives us some interesting…and unsettling…imagery on a small budget, much like they did with their last film Spring and Jimmy Lavalle wraps it in an atmospheric score.

The cast are solid. The directors play the main characters and are effective with Benson playing the cynical and somewhat paranoid Justin and Moorhead as the quieter and more accepting Aaron. One believing Camp Arcadia is a place of unseen danger and the other thinking it’s not so bad as their life isn’t going well after fleeing. Callie Hernandez is charming as the sweet and pretty Anna and Tate Ellington is effective as the cult leader, who never seems quite trustworthy despite his calm exterior and gets escalating-ly creepy as the film progresses. Lew Temple (recently scene in Feral) also has a small part as a mysterious cult member. A good cast.

Benson and Moorhead keep making intriguing films on a low budget and as much as one would like to see them get the attention they deserve, maybe they should stay independent of the studio system. Their Spring was a wonderful horror tinged romance and their follow-up is a spooky and sometimes trippy little flick. It may have been a bit hard to swallow that anyone would return to a cult they once fled, but as there are definitely supernatural elements present, maybe they had no choice. There are some unsettling and strange things going on and the directing duo give it some nice atmosphere. Sure, not everything is explained or spelled out for you, but it is an intriguing and spooky little movie nonetheless and ambiguity sometimes works better than answers.

-MonsterZero NJ

  Rated 3 moons…sometimes all at once. (You’ll have to watch the movie!)

 

 

 

 

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COOL STUFF: SPRING on BLU-RAY

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SPRING (2014) Blu-Ray

NOTE: Spring arrived today (6/2/15) on Blu-Ray as a Best Buy exclusive. It will be released to all other retail outlets on 8/11/15.

Spring is already poised to be on many 2015 best horror lists and is definitely going to be included on mine (see full review here). The Blu-Ray is here from Anchor Bay and, in my opinion, is worth having if you are a fan. On the technical side…the picture is in the 2:40:1 aspect ratio and the image is crisp and clear and preserves the subtle colors of co-director Aaron Moorhead’s cinematography. Even with a bit of a muted color scheme, the film still captures the beauty…and a bit of the romantic mystery…of the enchanting Italian locations. This works perfectly with the offbeat, dark fairy tale nature of the film and the more natural look is refreshing in an era of bright comic book colors. The sound is in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, which is perfectly suited to the film’s mostly subtle tone. This is not a big FX action film and it doesn’t need anything too extravagant.

Now on to the extras which make this disc so worth it…

There is audio commentary from directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead and the two present a laid-back account of many aspects of the filmmaking process. There is an extensive ‘making of’ feature that is made up of numerous segments focusing on the script, casting, filming in Italy, the make-up and prosthetic effects from Todd Masters and crew, visual FX, scoring and pretty much every aspect of the film’s production. It’s made by the filmmakers themselves and uses a lot of on-set footage and interviews and is actually a lot of fun. It is lengthy at 70 minutes but, is never boring and avoids the stuffiness of more technically focused ‘making of’ features and if you like the filmmaking process, should find it informative and a bit charming, too. There are two deleted scenes that are actually extended versions of scenes in the film and they were really good exchanges between our leads and it was nice to see them shared. There is a breakdown of FrostFx’s main FX segment during Louise’s big reveal, including nature photos used a s a reference, to the concept drawings, to the actual CGI shot. We also get the filmmakers’ original proof of concept used to sell the movie idea, an alternate ending (which, I’m glad they didn’t use) and a few more minor tidbits that seem to be there just for fun. Overall a very generous selection of extras, most of which are very informative and entertaining on a very reasonably priced disc.

I really enjoyed this film and certainly, with it’s extras, find this disc a must-have. it’s a unique and original film presented on a disc that accentuates that uniqueness with an equally offbeat look at how the film was made from conceptualizing to FX. If you like something a little different movie-wise and enjoy in-depth looks at the filmmaking process, this a certainly a disc worth having in the collection.

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SPRING (2014)

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SPRING (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Spring is a very unique combination of genres that blends a sweet romance with disturbing horror and science fiction elements and does it very effectively. The story finds troubled Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), who recently lost his mother and his job, fleeing to Italy to clear out his head and avoid the coming troubles from a recent bar fight. There he meets an enchanting young Italian girl named Louise (Nadia Hilker) who is a student and scientist conducting studies in evolution and genetics (pssst…never a good sign). It becomes obvious early on that there is something very different about Louise and as Evan falls deeper in love with the mysterious young woman, he has no idea how dangerous his love for her may become.

Written by Justin Benson and co-directed with Aaron Moorhead, this is a very different and sometimes very moving horror/romance. There are a number of things that make this work far better than you might expect and one is the establishing of a legitimate and very sweet love story between the displaced Evan and the beguiling Louise. If this were an indie romance, it would still have worked just fine. The filmmakers add a very disturbing twist to Louise, though, that will definitely bring chills when the side effects of her condition/true nature make themselves known. The FX portraying these effects are another reason this works so well. What we are shown ranges from the subtly chilling to outright shocking. There is also violent behavior that sometimes accompanies these changes and thus we do fear for Evan…even though we also want the two to be together…because, again, the love story aspect works so well. It’s gives the viewer some refreshingly mixed feelings. We can’t decide how we want this to work out. It makes for a very offbeat, engaging and disturbing movie. More elements in the plus column are an atmospheric soundtrack by Jimmy Laville and some lush cinematography of the Italian locations by co-director Moorehead.

Yet another factor that makes this work, is the cast. Pucci’s Evan comes across as a guy who has been hardened by some tough road walked and yet he stills seems to be a good man at heart. He’s likable and seems to have found something here in Italy that he has been looking for all his life and it’s not just Louise. As for his paramour, German actress Nadia Hilker is perfect as the beautiful, enchanting, mystery girl with a dark secret. Not only is Miss Hilker the stuff of romantic fantasy, but is dead-on in playing the emotional turmoil of a woman who has a unique and sometimes dangerous condition yet, very human desires and emotions. She’s enigmatic, frisky, feisty and sexy, yet tragically sad and definitely a touch dangerous. A huge factor that this movie works as good as it does is the perfect casting of it’s leading lady. She even handles some potentially silly dialog with a sincerity and earnestness that makes it click.

It’s not perfect. When Louise finally explains what is going on with her, it is a bit out there and tough to swallow. It requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, but good work by the cast and the deftness of it’s handling by the directors wins out over a potential story collapse. Also, when Evan finally finds out what is going on by walking in during one of Louise’s “instances”, he accepts her preposterous sounding explanation and comes to terms with it a little too quickly even after he witnesses something out of a nightmare. He decides to stay by her side even with that very unbelievable explanation and does so a little too easily. It far from ruins the film, but there should have been a little more evidence of torn emotions before he decides he loves her enough to deal with her as she is. Then again, in a weird way, this is a sort of fairy tale, a disturbing, reverse Beauty and The Beast, if you will, so, from that perspective we can accept it easier, as fairy tales are exactly that…even dark ones.

A very bold, unique and offbeat film from Benson and Moorehead. One that is sweet and romantic one minute and disturbing and violent the next. Skilled direction and great work by the cast make it work far better than it should and work very well at that. Add in that Nadia Hilker is absolutely crush-worthy even when in not quite human form and no matter how slimy, spiny or gory things get, we never stop rooting for Evan and Louise to make it together. A refreshingly different and very affecting horror/romance.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 bunnies…don’t ask…

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