Six Possible Theories to explain the movie The Endless to you

The Endless Movie Explained in Six Possible Theories - A clever concept played out brilliantly with amazing results. IMDB
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Oh YES! I am so stoked about this particular moment in the history of the entire universe. Why, you ask? Oh great random denizen of the World Wide Web? Because because because my new favorite friend… I have an awesome movie – NO! – I have TWO awesome movies to bring to you today!! So über excited right now. So, let’s away, shall we, and begin walking through my six possible theories to explain the movie the endless to you!!

Haven’t had the sublime opportunity to watch The Endless yet? Don’t worry, I got you covered:

Six Possible Theories to explain the movie The Endless to you - Aaron and Justin head to the camp

With those introductions out of the way, what do we have to talk about? Oh nothing… just a mind blowing movie entitled The Endless, that has completely uncorked my brain. But to explain, I have to back up. Ok? But trust me, it’ll be worth it. The movie The Endless, is actually a sequel to the movie Resolution. And that movie was so convoluted and confusing that I crafted five different theories to understand it. But come to find out? My favorite theory was completely and totally wrong. But I only know that now because of The Endless.

My first recommendation to you – if you have seen The Endless and don’t understand it? Go back and watch Resolution, then read my discussion of that movie… THEN come back here and read my write up of The Endless. And then! All will be clear. I absolutely, 100% promise you. Even though these are two of the single most complicated movies ever… it’ll all be clear. Heck, if you are just a regular reader of THiNC. and have never heard of either movie?! You are in for a treat:

Resolution is a simple movie premise. Mike stages an intervention for his junkie friend Chris. But mid-intervention, some really really crazy things start to happen out in the woods. Videos of themselves in the past, the future, and present start turning up, causing them to start wondering what the heck is going on? Are they going insane? Have the woods come alive? You have to watch it and find out before you move on to The Endless. Personally? I wouldn’t watch this trailer for Endless… Just go find Resolution – then find The Endless, and watch.


At the end of Resolution, we learn that Mike and his junkie friend Chris are caught in a never ending time loop. And that some malevolent demigod wants them both to capitulate, and to serve them endlessly in a loop. (Or, actually, that is how I see Resolution ending now that I’ve seen The Endless. At the end of this The Endless overview, I will go back through my five original theories in order to see which one still holds water. Totally cannot wait!)

The Setup Of The Endless

The movie The Endless, jumps backwards in time (or forwards, it really doesn’t matter) a bit and picks up with two minor characters from Resolution. Justin (played by Justin Benson, who is the writer and co-director) and Aaron (played by Aaron Scott Moorhead, who is also the co-director), who were two proselytizing members of a nearby UFO Cult group. Well, in The Endless, we see the two brothers, sitting by a lake (which was in Echo Park in Los Angeles, some other time I will tell you about my fun as a kid in the overflow tunnels in and under that park – but wow, I digress.) and talking about how difficult their lives have been since leaving the cult 10 years ago. Later we learn that their mother passed away in a fiery car crash, and the two brothers joined a cult living in the countryside of California. Years later though, the two brothers have enough, and they escape, only to grow disenchanted. Aaron, wanting closure on their time in the group, convinces Justin to go back for just a day or two.

When they get back to the camp, lots and lots of weirdness is happening of varying stripes and colors. There’s that guy that doesn’t talk, he just smiles constantly. There is that old friend that just storms through the camp not acknowledging anyone’s presence. There are the other camp members that don’t seem to have aged at all. Just plenty of strangeness, but at the same time, the camp is forgiving of their earlier exit. They are accepting. And Aaron finds the whole experience to be very welcoming.

Six Possible Theories to explain the movie The Endless to you

The Endless Takes a Darker Turn

But when Justin heads off to go for a run, things go from weird to foreboding. As he reaches a certain spot on the trail near several volcanic totems, the sky dims, a nearby trailer jumps, a tree falls, clouds of dust billow out of nowhere, and photos of the lake buoy. And nearby is a tent, with a clock repeating every 5 seconds, and a man running and screaming inside continuously on a loop. (Want a real mind job factoid? The man in the tent? His credited name is ‘Early 1900’s Man.’ Whoa!)

As Justin is heading back he comes across a crying woman. That woman? Her name is Jennifer Danube. Any bells? Nope, me neither. She is the wife if Michael Danube. Now any bells? Nope. Me neither. Michael Danube was the man from the first movie, that went in search of Chris to pose an intervention. Yeah… exactly. My mind exploded too. So what is Jennifer doing here? Sitting on the stairs, crying? Apparently, she came looking for her husband here, when he disappeared. And when she came through, Hal found her and told her that it would take some time, but that they would find her husband. She says, “It’s been a few. It’s been a few… I’m going to go lay back down.”

Anyway, when Justin asks the leader of the group, Hal (played by Tate Ellington), what the photo(s) might mean, he tells Justin to go out to the buoy, swim to the bottom and bring up what he finds there. He also sees two moons – an “atmospheric mirroring effect”, that signals the coming of the third moon and the “ascension”. So Justin and Aaron head out to the buoy and bring up a box with a cassette… a cassette of the two of them, Justin and Aaron proselytizing. (Was that video from the first movie? Looked like it to me. Or maybe it was cut footage?)

During an argument between Aaron, Justin, and Hal, we learn that Justin, after they left, began spreading lies about the group. That they were UFO nuts. That they castrated all the members. And when Aaron learns that these things aren’t true, he decides to stay, as Justin storms off to leave. But the car won’t start. And Justin is stranded.  But he finds Carl, the man that has refused to acknowledge Justin and Aaron at any point during their visit and things go all sorts of pear shaped. Because there, standing in front of him? Is a hanged version of himself as another Carl is ranting and raving about connected time pods, looping endlessly without end. Carl then draws a map showing the various time pods in the area, and tells him to go find the “gun nut tweaker”, an obvious reference to Chris from the first movie.

The Endless Blows Your Mind And Loops Back On Itself

So, Justin heads over to the trailer where the first movie was shot. And there are Chris and Mike, with Chris handcuffed to the wall just like the first movie all over again. They are obviously trapped in a time loop. They never got out after the first movie’s set of events. But the two characters posit a theory of an infinite number of colors, and that some being has way more rods in its eyes than we do. And that this being shows us what it is seeing.

Then we see Chris tell Justin to never give in to the monster. Never once. Everyone is horrified. But don’t give in. If you give in a single time it’s going to control you over and over again. Mike also tells Justin that we can never anticipate the ways in which we will isolate ourselves from the ones that we love. And with that, Mike goes and gets gasoline, and lights the house on fire and heads inside.

Justin leaves Mike and Chris behind, and goes to find Aaron. But when he finds Aaron, Aaraon is so offended by the ways in which Justin couldn’t care less about him, that he decides that he’d rather stay. That he’d rather die endlessly there in the camp than to live the horrible life his brother has forced him to live. And this, my friends is the key lesson that Justin needs to learn to survive the monster. This is the key detail of the entire movie if you hadn’t noticed.

Regardless, Justin and Aaron leave the gun for Carl. Carl shoots himself and then comes right back. And when Justin and Aaron head back into the camp, everyone is gone. But off in the distance, they see the small cabin that has always been locked is now unlocked, and when they go inside they see thousands of video and audio recordings. Super 8 reels. Audio cassettes. VHS tapes. CDs. All with different labels from different periods of time. The TV begins to play and shows them themselves from the vantage point of the creature in different periods of their return to the camp.

Now, Aaron and Justin leave the cabin, and head out to the campfire, they find clothes, and fragments, from all the cult members who have disappeared. Justin and Aaron sit down, and Justin tells Aaron that he’d feel guilty the rest of his life if he left his brother there. So he agrees to stay. Aaron, feeling validated and important to his brother for the first time, agrees to leave with him. With that, the monster awakes, hell-bent on keeping them here forever. So Justin and Aaron have to jump start the car in order to get it to start. And as they gun for the camp exit, they see the last two volcanic shibboleths that could keep them eternally looping forever in the camp.

Cut to the cross where their mother died – implying that they were back at the beginning again. But instead, their car goes blasting past, they are free! And there stand the cult members, at the edge of the camp, staring wistfully as Aaron and Justin escape.

Six Possible Theories to explain the movie The Endless to you

Possible Theories to Explain The Endless and Resolution

When I completed my review of Resolution, I gave five theories to explain the movie. I am going to revisit those theories here, now that we have way more to go on, in order to see which one of my original theories holds water:

Original Theory #1 – Michael Is The Insane One

“Personally? My favorite theory is Chris’ first theory, which is that Michael is the insane one here. He’s the one placing the items and pre-recording them in advance. He’s the unreliable narrator. It’s Michael that is the one that needs to get into therapy sooner rather than later.”

Remember when we first watched Resolution? It wasn’t exactly clear what was going on. Not at all. And actually, it could have been that it was Michael – the intervening friend, on Chris’ behalf – that was the truly insane one of the two. I theorized that Michael was the one that was leaving the videos for the two of them, but that he just didn’t know that he was doing it. Multiple Personality Disorders chaos, and what not.

Issues with Theory #1 After The Endless 

Well, apparently, Justin Benson – the screenplay author of both movies had a much bigger vision for this world than ‘Michael is insane’ apparently. There is no possible way that this theory holds absolutely any water whatsoever after seeing The Endless. Like, I can’t even give you a possible explanation for how this theory could hold together in light of The Endless. I’d try if I thought there was any way whatsoever. But alas.

Original Theory #2 – It’s That Druggy French Researcher

“If anyone is capable, and interested enough, to Punk Michael and Chris, well, it’s definitely that French researcher. Who could be recording and delivering the videos? Who is that is strange enough, and interested enough, to try and freak these two guys out? It’s the French researcher, Byron.”

In Resolution, while Chris is handcuffed to the wall, Michael heads off and finds an mobile home where Byron, a French researcher, has lived for years and years. Apparently, there were two other researchers, but Byron seems to lead Michael to believe that the two other researchers were looking for monsters and found it in themselves. That the area isn’t haunted, but that it requires stories, beginning, middles, and endings of stories. And after the other two researchers killed each other it left Byron to harvest the red drug (which, we find out that the cult calls it ‘The Endless’. Coincidence? You tell me.) by himself while awaiting their possible return. Could it be that this French researcher is the secret behind the entire movie?

Issues with Theory #2 After The Endless

One of the most interesting omissions in The Endless, after Resolution, was Byron, the French researcher. Justin and Aaron visit the trailer where he lived, but a sign is up saying that he was out looking for his co-workers. I thought they’d killed each other looking for monsters? The fact that Byron wasn’t even in the movie sort of takes the wind out of this theory’s sails all by itself.

Original Theory #3 – The Odds and End theory

At this point I was grasping at straws and I wondered if maybe the Crazy UFO Cultists were to blame. Or maybe it was the Indians as a result of their burial ground spiritualism.

Issues with Theory #3 After The Endless

There were so many threads going on in Resolution that it was hard to keep track. Case in point? The Endless was 100% about the UFO Cultists that was just one small thread of Resolution. AN ENTIRE MOVIE made out of one little thread. So obviously we were all confused as to what was going on here. But as we learned, Aaron and Justin (level 3.0 and 2.5 cultists) were not the cause of the mysterious goings on in either movie.

Original Theory #4 – Generic Looping Theory

“I don’t have much here. But we have seen lately, a number of looping movies here on Stay, Frequencies, Ghost Story, you know the drill. You hit the end, and you find yourself back at the beginning again. Could it be a Sisyphean thing? A Nietzschean conundrum. Maybe it’s just their sins catching up with them and forcing them to loop back over their time all over again. But basically the theory here is that evil, some evil that Michael and Chris have committed, are forcing them back to the beginning again.”

Issues with Theory #4 After The Endless

Actually, this theory is the most correct theory of the five I posited. I’ll explain more after I finish walking through the theories I had conjectured about for Resolution. But keep this one in your back pocket as we finish up these theories.

Original Theory #5 – The Muse Theory

“In this version or vantage, the movie is actually about the muse. It’s about that Greek goddess of inspiration. And then it is about creative desire and our own critical spirit. But more specifically, it is about Justin Benson, the screenplay author of Resolution. It’s about his war within himself to create a movie that is a quality movie. It’s about the movie character, the screenplay author, who is now the demon, the hellspawn that is the movie ending. And it is the screenplay characters, that are looking up off of the page, to their god, their creator, and saying to Justin… was that good enough? We can go again. Really we can.”

Issues with Theory #5 After Endless

I really really liked this theory after Resolution. I loved this meta-theory that stepped out of the story and interacted with the creator of the story simultaneously as a horrific demigod. But after watching Endless? Nope. Doesn’t even come close. And I’ll explain why below.

The Endless & Resolution Theory to Rule Them All – The Time Pod Theory

So my fourth theory from Resolution was the closest to the mark. It seemed to me, at the time, like the theory that Justin was leading us in with his screenplay. But I go my own way more often than not! hahah. But with The Endless, Justin and Aaron have made it abundantly clear that they really really have this thing mapped out and clearly headed in a very specific direction. And that direction is the Time Pod Theory.

We get the first clear picture of the Time Pod Theory when Justin meets up with Carl when he was trying to leave the camp. Carl is going on and on about “A bunch of looping prisons”, “shitty little pods of time.” And then from then on out we quickly learn a number of rules that make the time pod prisons work. Let’s see if we can pull some of the rules together, some are guesses, others more grounded in fact:

  1. The volcanic shibboleths demarcate the time pod prison boundaries.
  2. Once trapped in a prison it is impossible to leave (as far as we know).
  3. The longer you are in a time pod, the shorter your loop becomes.
  4. Shibboleth walls are not see through to the trapped.
  5. Suicide can create overlapping looping paradoxes.
  6. But generally suicide restarts the time loop.
  7. If you ever back down to the time pod prisoner god you will be trapped.

I’m sure there are more rules for how the pods work. But I’ll be 100% honest, I am completely unclear as to how suicide effects one’s time in the pod. We see Carl hanging, and we also see him talking to Justin. But other deaths cause a reboot of the loop. Or, if they splat at the end of their loop? For example… the man in the tent (Mr. Early 1900’s man). That seems to be right.

I grabbed a screenshot of the pods from the movie, and then drew over them so that we can see them a little more clearly.

Six Possible Theories to explain the movie The Endless to you - the time pods of The Endless

And based on the rules we saw, the photo above, and the separations, I believe there were five different time pods we were shown. Not only that, but they contained the following people:

  1. Jennifer Danube
  2. Michael Danube and Chris Daniels
  3. Early 1900’s Man
  4. Carl
  5. The Rest of the Cult

And the only way we can figure this list out above is by paying attention to which characters were not allowed to be in scenes with others. Jennifer is always at her own house, crying, awaiting Hal to help her find Michael. Michael and Chris are locked in the same loop they were in before. Tent man, or Early 1900’s Man, is violently looping every 5 seconds. Carl storms around his loop in circles and is only seen when Justin is out for a run or in his shed. And then you have the rest of the Cult, within the main area of the camp. We also learned, that the French Researcher, Byron can’t have been locked in a loop, as he left a note saying that he had left to look for the other researchers. (Which, to be completely honest, doesn’t make sense, like, at all.) But I’m betting a million dollars that Bill Oberst just couldn’t make it for the filming. But then I would have just left him out. But maybe that’s just me.

Six Possible Theories to explain the movie The Endless to you

Final Thoughts on The Endless

Justin is an amazing writer. This is a fact. I have just learned this team has another movie entitled Spring? That has suddenly just shifted to the top of my watch list after this movie. I remember really enjoying Resolution. It was so smart, and intriguing, and yet so so open ended as to be nearly incomprehensible! (Which, I don’t mind.) But with the addition of The Endless, Resolution should just be seen as a single film. One 220 minute movie. Yes, they can each be enjoyed separately. Yes, they both stand on their own. But they are multipliers better when dolloped together.

One of my favorite movies of all time, and the movie I recommend here to people more than any other, is The One I Love. Both movies have this prison portal concept wrapped inside each other. Both talk about reconciling and affirming one another before you can leave. But both are infinitely different too. The Endless takes an intriguing concept originally posited in Resolution, and shows that Justin and Aaron had a deeper, bigger vision for the idea than even I could have guessed at. Personally? I hope to see a final movie to make a trilogy. Maybe an attempt to release the trapped people in the pods? Maybe the time pods god expanding his prison cells into the city? I don’t know. But I do know that there are more stories to be told in this universe. That much is for sure.

So there you have it gang, The Endless movie explained in six possible theories. Thanks everyone for tipping me to this movie. Lawrence, Maddie, Lauren… you guys are gods among men. Fantastic movie recommendation!! What did you guys think of these two movies? What was I missing?

edited by: CY