As a huge fan of Resolution (it’s a film this writer cannot recommend enough when it comes to low-budget/high-ambition indie horror), I was more than pleased when I discovered that co-writers and co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's latest collaboration, The Endless, revisited that universe. The film stars Moorhead and Benson as brothers who managed to escape a UFO death cult as children, but who decide to return in search for answers as they struggle to keep their lives afloat. And what they encounter is something neither of their characters could ever anticipate: a force that will have them questioning everything about themselves and what they had believed to be true about the past.

Even though I caught up with both Moorhead and Benson during Tribeca 2017 to discuss The Endless, with the upcoming theatrical release for the film looming in the near distance, I thought it would be fun to chat with the duo again about their latest movie, and dig a little deeper into this world and their experiences while making The Endless with their fearless cast and crew.

Well Go USA is bringing The Endless to theaters beginning April 6th in New York and April 13th in Los Angeles, followed by a subsequent national rollout.

Great to chat with you guys again for The Endless, and congrats on all the success so far on the festival circuit. Back when you guys made Resolution, clearly you had some pretty big ideas in terms of what this universe was and the ideas you were confronting with the themes in that film. Did you know in the back of your minds that it would eventually lead to something like The Endless?

Aaron Moorhead: Resolution, very genuinely, was such a small movie. I know you know that, but I gotta pull it back even further from that. The crew was eight people, including us. We didn't know if we'd ever make a movie again. So, the idea of making not only another movie, but something that involves our first film, that would have challenged our humility a little bit.

That said, though, the mythology that we’ve invented and developed and thought about for years was not fully examined by Resolution. It was a good chunk of it, but there are so many other pieces of it that The Endless got to play with, so we decided to head out and go make another movie.

There was a little bit of apprehension of, "Should we be digging back into this movie that nobody saw?" Frankly, nobody saw Resolution. It had no marketing budget. Some people have. Some people like it, but there's no financial reason to make a sequel or anything in the same universe as the movie nobody saw. We realized, though, that the mythology is good, the mythology is unexplored. Even in Resolution, it's still unexplored, so we're not really repeating ourselves. We're just exploring this other facet.

We gave ourselves permission to go ahead and do that. We did not know when we were making Resolution that we'd come back to it, but we still kept on thinking about it and talking about it and joking about it. It would come up so often that we then eventually realized that, "Yeah, I guess we have really been developing this thing called The Endless the whole time."

Justin Benson: I think we just didn't know we were developing it for six years. There are things developed for Resolution that are intentionally not on the screen, that we're supposed to feel from the film. But it was nice to be able to go back and be a bit more conspicuous with certain things.

Also, too, there was this whole document created explaining the unseen antagonist of Resolution to our sound designer, for example. He's the same sound designer who worked on The Endless. Not only do we have this mythology that's already flushed out and that's fun, but we have a shorthand with our sound designer on what we're dealing with, and he's had six years to think about, "What does this thing sound like?" A lot of our collaborators also had six years to think about these things earlier, which was helpful.

When you're doing this and going out to a camp and making movies on these terms with a crew and actors who are putting their trust in you guys—it seems like these guys really threw themselves into the fire with you—did that camaraderie enhance what you guys were able to create in terms of the film itself?

Justin Benson: Well, for one thing, the crew isn't that much bigger on The Endless than it was on Resolution. This movie feels a little bigger, but it's roughly the same size. With all three movies we've made, we've never been given the opportunity to make them. We've had to create the opportunity to make them. Sometimes that's harder, but the really cool thing is that once we created the opportunity to make them, whether it was saving up money and that type of thing, everyone who's ever come to work with us, they seem to come in with very little monetary incentive to bring these movies to life for us. And that means a lot to us. In particular, David Lawson, our producer, he literally made nothing on this horseshit. But he'll always come out to the woods with us and make these movies with us, and we are so lucky that he does.

Aaron Moorhead: Thank you so much for asking about the crew, too, because a lot times the questions focus on the "us two" aspect of our work, because we are multi-hyphenates. But the movies wouldn't even come close to existing without them, and it's nice that they get recognized as people that contributed to it. We have some pretty incredible people we have been working with over the years.

With all your films, there are these layers and bits and pieces that you can pull apart and find new things to pick up on with subsequent viewings. Is there an art to making stories like this? There’s so much more I caught with my second viewing than I did on my first.

Justin Benson: It's on every level, down to lines and looks and locations and all that, but the most specific way to talk about what you're talking about is the production design. We started out with something really broad, just saying something to our production designer, Ariel [Vida]. "Hey, if there are any kind of Resolution Easter eggs you can come up with, let's do them. And anything that we still have laying over from Resolution, let's just find a way to integrate them into this film." That was just where we started from, and we found out that she put in the littlest, most amazing details that even we didn't catch until afterwards.

For example, there's that odd monument at the grave site of our mother, and there's a flower next to it, and the flowers are fresh, and that's supposed to be a bit of a sci-fi thing because it's like, "Why are these flowers fresh? Who's putting flowers by this grave?" And it's the sci-fi idea of the loop reset. We find out, if you look really closely in Anna's [Callie Hernandez] cabin, you see those flowers there, and you realize that she's the one that does it. It's just such a little note that I wouldn't have even noticed it if she hadn't eventually told me, but that stuff is everywhere.

There are so many other weird little ways where the film folds on itself, and not just on itself, but on our other films. A lot of shots were deliberately designed to reflect shots, not just in Resolution, but in Spring, too, because we're talking about another movie where you're repeating history and what's different and all that.

Aaron Moorhead: When you have the right collaborators who are in the fire with you, these hours and hours and hours and hours of discussion that you have in pre-production, they turn up on screen for the viewer as a feeling, and that's something really special. I'm really scared of the day where we have hours and hours and hours and hours of conversations with people, and then the movie's made and it's up there on screen and the general audience says, "It's actually really shallow." Like, "No! It doesn't work!"

You quickly realize you don't even know how that's going to affect it until you have those conversations. You don't know the richness of even the scenery or whatever you're doing because that doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's not this idea of, "Okay. I need to fill a room. Let me just go to Goodwill and fill it." When you've had those conversations and you've read the script a thousand times instead of twice, you start piecing together something that feels lived in, and the movie becomes something else that you can't plan for.

One thing that struck me the second time I watched The Endless was that it really taps into the dangers of nostalgia. Those things that you think were so perfect, they weren't. I know there are certain ways that it comes back in terms of what's revealed, but all of this happens because of your nostalgia for this place and for that time in your life. It felt like it mirrors where we're kind of at as a society right now. Was that something that you guys were conscious of while making the film?

Aaron Moorhead: You know, I can say some really hyperbolic things about how much I dislike nostalgia, how I think its fu**ing up a lot of things: films, music, politics—everything, really. It's a poison on society.

Justin Benson: Two of our next feature films are about nostalgia, and about how bad nostalgia sucks. Spring is the only one that is nostalgic, because it romanticizes Western Europe. But that has its own problems, too.

Aaron Moorhead: But yes, that was a discussion that we did explicitly have, that Aaron Smith would be going back to this camp for reasons of nostalgia, because he remembers it being this wonderful place. And it would be similar to when you go to college, and you think, " Man, back home, things were so great." But you should not go back home. And when you're out of college ten years later, and you're like me, still bussing tables to make a living, you think to yourself, "Man, college was great." But you shouldn't go back to college, that's not a good idea either.

Justin Benson: What’s funny is that I actually don't have a very good memory. That's one of the things in the film, and it was very convenient, because would you go back to this place if it was so terrible? There is an idea, and the sci-fi aspect of the film explains it in a way where things get a little bit muddy. I have a deep appreciation and love for my childhood and my high school years, or even when I’m reading about the 1950s and ’60s and ’70s and all of that. All of those are wonderful. I have no desire to go back, though, and think it's a horrible idea to go.

I think the world is almost always in a constant state of improving. And besides, people who are really into nostalgia kind of inherently have to be pessimistic about our current state, which we're not—we're very optimistic people. It is also a bit delusional and kind of selfish to not realize that our iPhones have changed everything in a good way, with some bad mixed in too, of course. We would get lost all the time. We'd have to get people to read us directions, or tell us how to get places. If you didn't know something, you'd just have to live with not knowing it, and live in ignorance, things like that. Knowledge and progress are good things.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.