Tarpon Springs' Aaron Moorhead is an indie film darling, even if he won't admit it

Justin Benson and Tarpon Springs' native Aaron Moorhead in The Endless, a movie they co-direct and star in. It is now available on DVD. [MPRM Communications]
Justin Benson and Tarpon Springs' native Aaron Moorhead in The Endless, a movie they co-direct and star in. It is now available on DVD. [MPRM Communications]
Published June 28, 2018

Director Aaron Moorhead's 2014 independent film Spring landed him on Hollywood trade publication Variety's list of "Top 10 Directors to Watch in 2015."

The Tarpon Springs native's latest indie film, The Endless, released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 26, lives up to the earlier hype. USA Today ranks The Endless as the 10th best movie of the year so far, three spots below the money-making machine Avengers: Infinity War.

And movie review website Rotten Tomatoes currently gives a percentile score in the high 90s to The Endless, about two brothers who, seeking closure, return to the UFO death cult they escaped years earlier only to learn the scary truth that Camp Arcadia's crazy beliefs are real.

Still, Moorhead, 30, a 2005 graduate of Palm Harbor University High School, hasn't achieved this success alone.

He is one-half of a duo with 35-year-old San Diego native Justin Benson. Moorhead is a cinematographer, Benson a screenwriter, and they co-direct. For The Endless, they also star as the brothers.

They released their first feature film in 2012. Titled Resolution, it tells the story of a man who, in trying to save his best friend from drug addiction, holds him captive in the home in which he is squatting. They quickly learn the residence is built on a haunted Indian burial ground.

Next came Spring, about an American who, while in Italy, falls in love with a woman harboring the secret that she mutates into an immortal, murderous reptilian creature.

The pair recently chatted with the Tampa Bay Times about their careers.

Do you two consider yourselves "indie darlings"?

Moorhead: I don't know where you cross that line at all. All my friends have a wonderful appreciation for indie film and a lot of them work in indie film, so I definitely feel we are in very nice company of talented filmmakers. But indie darlings? That is for others to decide.

Any plan to go your separate ways or is this directing partnership until death do you part?

Moorhead: The idea of us directing separately — that is a horror movie. When we work separately, we do our absolute worst work.

Benson: There is no incentive for us to split up in terms of finding pleasure in our work and having a good time. I like making stuff more when I am making it with Aaron. He is one of my best friends.

Without giving away spoilers, I noticed some connections between Resolution and The Endless. Is The Endless a sequel?

Moorhead: There isn't really a word for what The Endless and Resolution are in relation to each other. There are literal precise points of connectivity between the films, but it is not a sequel or sidequel. We just so happened to be inspired to tell a story in the world that Resolution took place.

Like the Marvel Universe, D.C. Universe and Star Wars Universe? So, what is your universe?

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Benson: The Arcadian Universe. But that's more our own vernacular

In the past you two have cited Christopher Nolan as one of your favorite directors. He jumped from his indie film Memento to Batman Begins. Do you hope to one day make blockbusters or prefer to stay indie?

Benson: If you're asking about Batman specifically, who says no to that? If the phone rings right now and the caller ID says, "Batman offer," we're going to hang up on you and take that. Everyone wants to work on a bigger scale and have everyone see their movie, but we have to do it in a way where we are not totally sacrificing what we have spent years building.

So, what's next for you two?

Moorhead: Right now, we are in ultraproductive mode. We have four different features and three different TV shows we are pounding the ground with. We couldn't tell you which is coming first, but we will make all of them eventually.

Contact Paul Guzzo at Follow @PGuzzoTimes.