In the Loop: The Endless

It’s a joke now that we’ve all been repeating the same day over and over for more than a year now. I had been thinking about this and also my unapologetic love of time loop movies.

Welcome to In the Loop, a project where I will write about time loop movies (and on occasion, TV shows) once a week.

Note: I will be writing about all of these movies as if you’ve seen them, so spoilers ahead!

The Endless (2017, directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead)

  • Time until the loop begins: It’s complicated
  • The cause of the loop/inciting incident: A space god
  • Number of time loops: It’s complicated
  • Lessons learned: Don’t be in a cult

In the Loop logoIs it still a time loop movie if there’s not actually a time loop? Or at least not the ones we typically think of when we think of time loop movies?

What if the clearest time loop relates to another movie? And is that movie a time loop movie if you never actually see the loop in it?

The Endless just makes things complicated.

Justin and Aaron (played by Justin Benson, writer/co-director, and Aaron Moorehead, co-director) are brothers who escaped from the UFO death cult, Camp Arcadia, that took them in after their mother died in a car wreck. Aaron gets a videotape in the mail from a cult member and wants to go back. Justin is against it but eventually relents.

The brothers return to Camp Arcadia and notice no one has really aged in the 10 years they’ve been gone (the members handwave it away by claiming it’s their good diets and such). Aaron likes it there but Justin remains suspicious. It turns out everyone is being controlled but some unnamed space god.

As for the time loops, Justin encounters some people stuck in them, including Michael and Chris from Benson’s and Moorehead’s Resolution (2012). Michael and Chris are stuck reliving the same week repeatedly, which always ends in their deaths. They’ve been looking for a way out.

Resolution was not a time loop movie. Well, not exactly. The end strongly implied that Michael and Chris had experienced the events of the movie before and were going to experience them again.

There’s some stuff about three moons and escaping before the third rises (just … go with it?) Justin and Aaron manage to escape from being caught in the cycle of life and death (dare I say, the endless cycle of life and death) before it’s too late. The CGI effects are kind of cheap (this is a low-budget movie, to be fair) but it’s an effective enough ending.

The general plot doesn’t matter as much as the ideas it’s reaching for, which involves a lot of ideas of inevitability and the possibility of escape (which is a common theme throughout a lot of time loop movies). To drive this point home, there are a lot of various images of circles in this movie. It wants a certain folk horror mood that it can never quite sustain and some of the moments of humor feel out of place. The acting could be stronger. Benson and Moorehead do an adequate job and they do have a good brotherly chemistry but their performances are a little flat.

Admittedly, I liked this less on rewatch than I did the first time I saw it. I think not knowing where it is all going helps this movie, but I still love its ambition and what it’s trying to do. I’ve seen all of Benson’s and Moorhead’s features at this point and I feel like this is the weakest of them. But I also feel like it’s probably their most personal of the one they’ve made so far.

Is it a time loop movie? It’s close enough that I’m still counting it.

Next week on April 27: Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2 U

In the Loop logo by Sarah Burnett. If you’d like to support this project, buy one of my Polaroids.