I remember exactly where I was the first time I watched Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s film SPRING (2014), as it has had a long-lasting effect on me and my passion (aka obsession) for Lovecraftian mythos. I quickly followed that up with a viewing of their first feature RESOLUTION (2012), which resulted in solidifying these two incredibly talented filmmakers as favorites of mine. Never in a million years did I think I would get the chance to speak with them, or better yet interview them about their latest film, the acclaimed supernatural sci-fi horror film, THE ENDLESS, but sometimes dreams do come true.
This week I had the chance to speak with both Justin and Aaron in regards to the video release of their latest film THE ENDLESS, which has been receiving the highest of praises from both critics and fans alike. Part sci-fi, part psychological thriller, part horror, this film is a masterpiece of filmmaking that is visually astounding while putting you through one hell of a mind fuck in the best possible way. During our conversation, we touched upon how their first film RESOLUTION comes into play in THE ENDLESS as well as what it was like to not only co-direct but co-star in the film.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you both so much for speaking with me today and congratulations on all the success you’ve been having with THE ENDLESS. To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about the film and how the story came to be?
Aaron Moorhead: THE ENDLESS is about two brothers who have escaped from a Heaven’s Gate-esque UFO death cult about a decade earlier and become convinced to go back for some closure on what they saw as their family; however, when they return they discover that the cult beliefs aren’t as crazy as they originally thought.
Justin Benson: The conception of the movie is primarily two things. One is that after our second movie SPRING, and even after our first movie RESOLUTION, we had a lot more opportunities to make bigger projects, more studio-level stuff. Those projects are still being developed and worked on but the point is that they take a very, very long time to get made. We decided that in the interim we were going to develop a movie that we could make now that was entirely self-reliant and that we would pay for ourselves and act in as well. We were going to write a script that, in the worst case scenario, if the whole crew left, we could do the film on our own. Luckily, in the process of making the film, an investor came on-board, which was the first time that really happened to us, so we were able to get this film made.
The other point of inspiration for developing the film was we realized all these projects that were taking forever to get going all shared themes of conformity or anti-conformity. We also realized that we were talking about characters as well as the mythology of the monster in our first movie RESOLUTION for like five or six years. A lot of these conversations centered around what happened with those cult members and we decided that would be an interesting way to explore ideas of conformity and anti-conformity so let’s tell that story. Being self-reliant, we were oddly inspired by our first movie, a movie that very few people saw, a tiny movie that was put out by a tiny distributor, but it was an inspiration for us.
Nightmarish Conjurings: As you mentioned, you both star in this film as well as co-direct. Did you face a lot of challenges having to do both?
AM: There weren’t a lot of challenges, believe it or not, from being both the lead actors and the filmmakers. We’ve been making films hand over fist since we first started making films, so we were always pretty use to getting our hands dirty. Obviously, there is the question of being at two places at once, especially when you’re the cinematographer, the director, the writer, and the actor, but ultimately it falls under the big umbrella of making a film – you do whatever needs to be done. Of course, we had the support of our cast and crew so it wasn’t like we were making this in a vacuum, but ultimately it changed the process a little bit; it didn’t make it significantly more difficult but in a lot of ways it helped to improve. When you are making a scene you are quite literally in that scene and that helps emotionally, that helps with intellectualizing the scene, and it helps in the sense that you are physically standing in front of your co-actor. You can discuss the nuances and details while still keeping the mood going without having to walk the monitor over to them – it’s just little things like that, that just add up, which makes for a different experience but not particularly a whole lot more difficult.
Nightmarish Conjurings: One of the reasons I love this film so much was because it tied in the characters from RESOLUTION, which you touched upon briefly. Did you always know you wanted to have your first film tie into THE ENDLESS?
JB: When we were making RESOLUTION in 2011, Aaron, at the time, was the Director of Photography on indie films and I was bussing tables and working as a Production Assistant part-time. I had a year off before I was to go to medical school and I thought to myself, if Aaron and I work together with our skill sets and use the X amount of money in my checking account working these shitty jobs, we could just make this movie and kick it off the bucket list. We decided to make it, which was a wonderful experience, and somehow it got into the Tribeca Film Festival where it did well and we got a small distribution.
The reason I’m saying all this is because at the time I didn’t even know if anyone would ever see this little movie we were making or that we would even have careers at all as filmmakers. There wasn’t any plan for anything, but over the five or six years since the movie came out, we made another film, but we just kept talking about those characters from RESOLUTION and how we could do small projects that would incorporate that world and that mythology. We had a really half-baked TV show about Chris and Mike (characters from RESOLUTION) trying to break out of the loop with Mike trying to get back to his wife, which ended up in THE ENDLESS. Then Aaron and I tried to shoot an improvisational movie about the cult members travelling around the world trying to find other UFO pick-up sites because the cult hated them and left them behind but it was fucking horrible and stupid (laughs). Still, we were kind of oddly, in our weird way, developing all this for THE ENDLESS. Even if you hate THE ENDLESS, believe me, it’s way better than the improvisational idea (laughs).
AM: So the answer is no, not fully (laughs) but over the years we have found various ways to expand on those characters and that universe. Also, to be really clear, there was never any version of THE ENDLESS, in any way shape or form, that didn’t have heavy influences from RESOLUTION.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Another aspect of the film that I really loved was I felt like it had more of a personal touch to it as if the viewer is finding a part of themselves through the experiences that your characters go through. In a way, it’s almost cathartic. Were you hoping that the film would leave a deeper impact on people aside from the horror/sci-fi elements?
AM: I think every filmmaker should aspire, or does aspire, to making films that have some sort of resonance. Ideally, you have someone still thinking and feeling and emoting based on the experiences you just gave them. For us, if we make a movie that you could call a disposable tale, that’s just purely about the plot, we have failed. I wouldn’t say that we put any heavier emphasis on our characters as we do our ideas. I think that’s one of the reasons bad movies get made, it’s because those things are way, way out of balance, particularly when people get obsessed with their ideas and they don’t care about their characters.
Nightmarish Conjurings: With THE ENDLESS now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD, do you have any upcoming projects that you are both working on for the future that you can talk about?
AM: It’s not that we aren’t allowed to say what we are working on but we have decided recently to not talk about upcoming projects too specifically because, it’s weird, neither one of us believe in the supernatural, but we are really superstitious about this one. I feel like we cacn talk about a project in depth, it’ll show up on our IMDB page eventually, and then it falls into a black hole (laughs).
JB: I will say we have four movies in development, we just don’t know which one will go first. Two of them are scripts that we wrote and two of them are scripts we are attached too. They are also all over the place, one is a slightly bigger scale than THE ENDLESS and another is on a way bigger scale than anything we’ve ever made before. We also have several TV shows in development with one in particular that we’ve been dealing with recently. It’s a TV show about the early 1900’s occultist, Aleister Crowley, that’s going to be a one hour drama about his life. We just turned in the pilot script to the studio and we will see if it goes on to be a series.
THE ENDLESS is now available to own on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital from Well Go USA.