Chris owes a stash of drugs to the pair of Micah and Billy, two people that Michael and Chris had known in school, who are willing to use violence to retrieve the drugs. Chris is illegally squatting in the house, which sits inside of a Native American reservation. Chris is obviously unwilling to give up his drug habit, and doesn't want to be saved. Michael starts finding mysterious forms of media from records to film stock to DVDs which start out depicting horrific fates of those involved, and start to reflect and depict Michael and Chris. Oh, and Chris didn't send the video.
It soon becomes clear that someone, or something, is constructing its own narrative, and has made Michael and Chris the main characters.
This film depicts the following tropes:
- Apocalyptic Log: The stories, recordings, and films that Michael find essentially work as this, and possibly the film as a whole.
- Asshole Victim: Michael and Chris hide while Charles and his men kill Micah and Billy, which was originally intended to be the fate of the former two. Considering their actions detailed below under Kick the Dog, they thoroughly deserved it.
- Big Bad: The nameless entity manipulating the events for its own amusement.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Micah and Billy count, as do Charles and his men. They most certainly pose a threat to Michael and Chris, but they're clearly outmanned by an Eldritch Abomination.
- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Occurs several times in-universe from the random mental patient tapping on their window one morning to the UFO-worshipping cultists by the creek to the scam artist who wants to buy the house from them. The characters note the randomness of it all.The entity is constructing it's own narrative, slowly unnerving Michael and Chris while playing into the film's theme of audience expectation.
- Cosmic Horror Story: The entity creates an inescapable Xanatos Gambit for its victims, making it completely impossible for them to try and change its plans and ensuring that they would die one way or another. And even if they did manage to escape, they would just bring it back with them.
- Despair Event Horizon: Chris loses whatever will he had to live when Micah and Billy kill the dog, giving a Despair Speech to Michael about how futile his attempts to get him clean are. Apparently subverted near the end, though, when he doesn't want to die at anybody's hands.
- Downer Ending: Our protagonists manage to escape, leaving a few assholes to die in their place. But then the entity itself shows up, enraged. Last shot of the film is them begging for forgiveness as the entity bears down upon them, their deaths inevitable. According to the Stealth Sequel The Endless, theyre now trapped in an eternal time loop forced to relive the events of the movie over and over.
- Eldritch Abomination: Whatever the creature is, it seems to be able to manipulate reality including presenting real-time and future recordings of the protagonists. When they finally come fact-to-face with the creature, it looms impossibly high above them before a Smash to Black.
- Gag Dub: The DVD features several alternate versions including one with an obviously tacked-on Happy Ending which makes callbacks to the events of the film while negating any gravitas, a "rejected cut" involving a third person at the cabin who contributes nothing to the plot and largely comments on how weird everything is, and a recut trailer that makes the film look like a love story between the two men.
- Harsher in Hindsight: Michael repeatedly shoots down Chris' idea to simply leave, saying he doesn't want to bring whatever is happening home to his wife. The Endless however strongly implies that if they had simply driven away they would have left their loop before it "locked in," meaning they could have freely left all of this behind and avoided an eternity of torture. Even worse, by getting stuck in their loop and vanishing from "the real world" it prompted his wife to come looking for him, causing her to also get stuck in a time loop. Oopsies!
- Kick the Dog: To show that they're serious about getting the drugs back, Micah and Billy shoot the stray dog that Chris has been taking care of.
- Mistaken for Gay: The scam artist who tries to buy the house off of the two assumes that they're a couple.
- Nailed to the Wagon: Forced on Chris by Michael as an attempt to get him clean. Michael figures that if Chris can go a week without drugs.
- Noodle Incident: Chris did something at Michael's wedding that led to their estrangement, but it's never described. Although, given the troubles that Chris is stated to have had in terms of drugs and alcohol, it's probably fairly mundane.
- One-Word Title
- Smash to Black: The protagonists come face to face with the entity. Michael asks "Can we try it another way?" and is answered by an unearthly roar and a cut to black.