Stars: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Tate Ellington
This low-budget but visually arresting sci-fi drama from multi-tasking writer-directorial duo Benson and Moorhead has the haunting and otherworldly feel of such similarly cut-price enigmas as ‘Another Earth’ and ‘Sound of My Voice’. The directors also star as the similarly named brothers Justin and Arron. They are the sole escapees of what was apparently a cult centred around UFOs. Their ten-year attempt to return to normality is disturbed when they receive a video-taped message from fellow cult member Anna (Hernandez) which seems to indicate that ‘The Ascension’, the epochal event the cult was anticipating, has actually occurred. While Justin is wary of returning, Aaron, who is at a loose end anyway, manages to persuade his brother to return to the camp in the Californian desert. They find it just as they left it, with the other members seeming not to have aged at all. Anna who sent the message has no recollection of sending the tape, while the atmosphere seems far more genial than they remembered. Despite the ‘off’ feeling that time is not functioning as it should, the hitherto rudderless Aaron says that he wants to stay and he urges his brother to stay with him. The picture is suffused with a woozy and eerie feel, complimented by the earthy brown haze of the Californian desert environs. One sequence in which the cult take part in a ceremony where they play tug of war with a rope leading into seemingly empty darkness may sound hokey on paper, but feels genuinely weird and unsettling, as do the digitally enhanced shots of birds flying in strange, rigidly-shaped formations. But despite the compelling set-up and a palpable uncanny atmosphere, the oblique dialogue, deadpan performances, and narrative evasiveness become a little wearing over a two-hour running time.