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Short Take: The Endless

(Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, USA, Well Go USA, Opening April 6)

Never mind that Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s indie sci-fi film The Endless sometimes contradicts its own time-travel rules, defying its own logic. What the directing duo’s third feature together lacks in scientific coherence it more than makes up for with witty, familial dialogue bounced back and forth between the co-directors, who play brothers returning to the “UFO death cult” they escaped 10 years prior.

One brother wants to return to the simplicity of cult life, while the other wants to tough it out in Los Angeles. Between spats about the definition of “pedophile” or the artistic merits of “The House of the Rising Sun,” however, both come to understand that this cult possesses more validity than they’d once thought when they find themselves caught up in an “ascension” time loop, forcing the cult to relive the same days over and over, and compelling the brothers to decide if they want to escape it.

Though slick special effects—force fields, gargantuan blasts—figure greatly into the visual milieu, they’re presented with a lighter touch, more organic to the story than showy. But Benson’s funny, touching, and thoughtful script is the real winner, seemingly a response to more self-serious pictures that manipulate time, such as Primer and Memento. The grounding force of this film is the brothers’ relationship, which is contentious but loving, and wholly realistic.