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UFO Death Cult Movie Favors Subtlety Over Spectacle

Movies about UFO death cults are few and far between. So those who are in to that sort of thing (UFO death cults), will no doubt be excited at the impending release of The Endless, a critically-acclaimed sci-fi horror from directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. The directors also star in the movie; they play brothers who find themselves drawn back to Camp Arcadia, a secretive community from which they’d escaped as young men. Hoping their return will bring them some closure, they’re instead confounded by inexplicable phenomena occurring around the camp. Meanwhile, the cult members ominously prepare for a mysterious “event”…

The micro-budget movie has received rave reviews from critics; its vérité aesthetic enhancing the fantastical elements of its plot. The Endless also apparently shares the same creative universe as the directors’ first movie—the genre-defying Resolution (2013). The Endless received a limited US theatrical release back in April this year, but, at this point, very few people will have seen the movie. It arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on this week in the US and will soon available in Europe on VOD.

It’s refreshing to see filmmakers thoughtfully engage with alien themes outside the narrative constraints and popular expectations that come with a mega-budget. There have, of course, been a number of UFO movies over the years that have quietly eschewed traditional approaches to the subgenre (among them The Stranger Within and The Arrival of Wang), though most of them fail to find an audience upon release. Still, I’m firmly of the opinion that less is often more; what is suggested or implied can be so much more effective than what is shown; a whisper can be louder than a scream. This stripped-back approach was successfully embraced earlier this year in A Quiet Place, in which Earth is invaded by sightless aliens with hypersensitive hearing, sending the remaining human population into silent hiding. The movie cost in the region of $17 million (very modest for Hollywood) and grossed in excess of $326 worldwide. Unsurprisingly, a sequel is now in development.

Perhaps movies like A Quiet Place and The Endless are signalling a new approach to the alien/UFO subgenre of science-fiction, one not reliant upon epic spectacle, the American military, and cheesy one-liners. Roland Emmerich, take note…

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Robbie Graham has lectured around the world on the UFO subject and has been interviewed for the BBC, Coast to Coast AM, Canal+ TV, Channel 4, and Vanity Fair, among many others. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including The Guardian, New Statesman, Filmfax, and Fortean Times. He holds first class degrees in Film, Television and Radio Studies (BA hons) and Cinema Studies (MA) from Staffordshire University and the University of Bristol respectively. He is the author of Silver Screen Saucers: Sorting Fact from Fantasy in Hollywood’s UFO Movies (White Crow Books, 2015) and the editor of UFOs: Reframing the Debate (White Crow Books, 2017). Visit robbiegraham.uk
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