The magnificent indie horror film “The Endless” begins with two brothers receiving a strange message, drawing them back to the apocalyptic cult they escaped a decade ago. As the siblings settle back into their old compound, their former friends are such good company that the two start to wonder: Why did we ever leave?
“The Endless” was written, directed, edited and shot by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who previously made the smart genre pictures “Resolution” and “Spring.” The filmmakers also play the brothers, Justin and Aaron, who question whether something supernatural is guiding their surprisingly pleasant return to communal routine.
There are no monsters or ghosts per se in “The Endless.” For the movie’s first half, the heroes are haunted by the uncertainty of memory, as they wonder if their younger selves misinterpreted their experiences out in the wilderness.
In the second half, Justin and Aaron’s investigation leads them into genuinely disturbing encounters with strangers who seem stuck in different kinds of time loops — from the benign to the maddening. Though intentionally ambiguous in meaning, “The Endless” mainly riffs on the idea that revisiting the past can be a trap.
That may seem like too abstract a notion to convert into horror, but Benson and Moorhead make it work, thanks to assured direction and nightmarish imagery. Great use of an eerie Southern California landscape and some fine, naturalistic acting emphasizes how the ordinary can sometimes seem threatening — and vice-versa.
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Playing: AMC Sunset 5, West Hollywood; Monica Film Center, Santa Monica