Last weekend marked the world premiere of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead‘s The Endless at the ongoing Tribeca Film Festival. Being a huge fan of the duo’s previous works, I was absolutely floored with the film (here’s my review), explaining that it “had me looking around like a chicken with my head cut off. I went into a panic, absolutely losing my shit over what the duo pulled off in the middle of their latest mind fuck.” What they did was titanic, and also a huge, HUGE SPOILER.
Before Benson and Moorhead directed The Endless and Spring, they broke onto the indie scene with their micro-horror Resolution, which also had its world premiere at Tribeca, back in 2012.
The film follows a man (Peter Cilella) who imprisons his estranged junkie friend (Vinny Curran) in an isolated cabin in the boonies San Diego to force him through a week of sobriety. We learn throughout, however, that the events of that week are being mysteriously manipulated.
While the filmmakers’ sophomore effort, Spring, took place in Italy, there were still quiet nods to Resolution, setting the stage for what was to come in The Endless. Benson and Moorhead both star in The Endless as two brothers who return to the cult they fled from years ago. As they investigate and rediscover their youth, they learn that the cult is trapped in an endless loop of sorts and that there are pockets of time that cause eternal torment for those inside. One pocket of time carries a shocker, the scene that had me poking my head up in disbelief; Benson and Moorhead end up in an actual scene from Resolution, which tied directly into the concept that “the events of that week are being mysteriously manipulated.” What’s even more exciting is that it’s quite possibly one of the most organic tie-ins I’ve ever seen. Split, eat your heart out.
With the full interview coming this week, here’s the spoiler-y bit about the Resolution sequence that we’re leaving out of the full piece. Here, Benson and Moorhead explain the genesis behind the scene and how it came to be included in The Endless.
“RESOLUTION is a movie that most people will never see, so making a sequel or a franchise of some sorts from a business standpoint is insane,” Benson explains in our exclusive conversation. “But the mythology and those characters and that universe for some reason just really inspire us. It was basically franchising exclusively to make the story better because we were inspired. We’ve been talking for years about what happened to those people and what other stories in that universe would be. We even started shooting another tiny improv movie with those characters but abandoned it because we were trying to shoot it internationally while on the road promoting SPRING and it was just exhausting. The love for that universe runs deep though, and the trickiest part of both the script and the edit was making sure that people who had no knowledge of RESOLUTION had full comprehension and enjoyed that material. It’s been heartwarming to see that people who have never heard of RESOLUTION often point out Chris and Mike as their favorite characters in THE ENDLESS.
“There was also something really interesting creatively making sure that we didn’t negate anything from RESOLUTION, that it had perfect continuity just out of respect if nothing else,” he continues. “The feedback has all been that fans of RESOLUTION find it to be a blast to find all the connections and that people who haven’t seen RESOLUTION just really enjoy those elements in particular, and feel something greater at play… I guess maybe we’re the first to do low-budget indie world-building, and that’s fun.”
What’s so exciting about the Resolution sequence is that it’s completely organic, and doesn’t feel like a filmmaker self-celebrating. The duo talked about their thought process as they approached the sequence.
“When we initially approached the idea it was terrifying,” reveals Moorhead. “We don’t want to seem like we’re so far up our own butts that we assume every viewer of this film had seen RESOLUTION, but it was just such fertile ground that to leave it out when we’re already in the same orbit of that universe would have felt like sacrilege. We worked VERY hard to make sure the crossover wouldn’t be alienating to those who didn’t know our work, only enriching to those who had, but still…the fact that it seems other people feel that way about it too is a breath of relief.”
Benson adds, “Thus far, that seems to be the favorite scene by just about everyone. One thing we hear over and over is something like ‘I’d like to see a whole movie about those guys!’ And then we’re like, ‘We have good news for you!’ Peter and Vinny are just so special to watch perform.”
M. Night Shyamalan’s Split ended with a button that put the film in the same universe as Unbreakable. While similar in concept, what Benson and Moorhead pull off it way more impressive. Here’s what they thought when they saw Split:
“SPLIT is an impressive movie by an icon who deserves it all,” says Benson. “I had this funny thought though — I genuinely wonder what it’s like if you’re a little kid who has never seen UNBREAKABLE, which is my favorite movie of his… At the end are you’re just like, ‘Wait, why is Bruce Willis here?’
“Didn’t really connect the ending of SPLIT to our film in any way till a few days ago,” added Moorhead. “The SPLIT thing felt like an easter egg that accidentally blew up in perception, whereas ours is meant to feel like a deep cut that expands the mythology a bit.”
Watch for our full interview with Benson and Moorhead later this week, and watch for The Endless distribution news as it comes in. In the meantime, it may behoove you to bask in the duo’s psychological thriller Resolution.