Longtime collaborators Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are no strangers to the Tribeca Film Festival. Pushing the descriptor of the ‘multidisciplinary artist’ into progressively more realms, while continuing to surprise audiences, the directing duo debuted their 2012 horror thriller Resolution at the fest, and were back this year with The Endless, another genre-bender which can best be described as a ‘different kind of cult film.’
Long heralded by Tribeca Enterprises EVP Paula Weinstein as artists to watch, the filmmakers haven’t disappointed with their latest offering. Directing and starring in The Endless, as characters sharing their own names, Benson and Moorhead returned to New York with another film that is challenging, engrossing and difficult to pin down.
“The Endless is about these two brothers who have this really terrible life in Los Angeles as we enter the movie, and they get this mysterious tape in the mail. On this tape is a sort of Heaven’s Gate-esque message from a cult,” Benson explained, sitting down with his co-director at Deadline’s Tribeca Studio. “You learn that the older brother pulled out the younger brother [from the cult] many years ago.” With the cult entering back into their lives in mysterious fashion, the brothers agree to return to the scene they once fled to achieve whatever closure may be possible.
Thematically, there is an apparent through line in the three films the directors have made thus far, one that came into sharper focus, as The Endless bowed at Tribeca. “Our movies have more and more dealt with the idea of conformity and rebellion,” Benson said. “This one was just the one where it was the most conspicuous.”
Developing their cult film, the directors recognized that the process would be “less about research” and more about the gut sense of cults that sits in our collective consciousness, stemming from countless iterations of the cult story in film, television and media as a whole. The challenge, then, was to provide an entirely new experience, taking the genre to places that were unexpected.
“We all have watched lots of documentaries about [cults], but in the process of this story, how do we give someone something unexpected?” Benson reflected. “What’s the difference between a cult and a religion? I guess it’s numbers, ultimately, but that’s not really what this movie’s about. It asks even bigger questions than that.”
The final result didn’t come without its stops and starts, and a little fumbling along the way—after all, creating a legitimately new version of the endlessly retold story is no easy task.
“We had this debate about exactly what happens when they go back to…at this point, you just call it a cult, because that’s a word that everybody knows. But we were talking about it like, ‘That’s not really a cult, exactly,’” Moorhead explained. “There’s not like one central leader, and he’s not a charlatan, but there kind of are all these odd cult things.”
“We landed on this word ‘commune,’ and I thought it was like, ‘Ah, brilliant. That’s right. It’s a commune, it’s not a cult,” the co-director continued. “And then I watched a cult documentary, and the person’s like, ‘You’re in a cult!’ and he’s like, ‘I’m not, I’m in a commune.’ I was like, ‘No! I’m not original at all!”’
Apparently, distributors disagreed. Just days after the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival concluded, The Endless secured a North American rights acquisition deal with Well Go USA Entertainment, with a traditional theatrical release planned for early 2018.
To view Deadline’s conversation with the director-stars of the sci-fi/horror flick—who expound upon their extensive rehearsal process, and the film’s visual aesthetic—click above.