Fasten your seatbelts, because Gareth Evans has produced a deeply disturbing mixture of horror genres.
Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) embarks on a journey to an isolated island somewhere near the British coast to find his kidnapped sister. She has been held for ransom by a sinister cult led by a charismatic leader XX (Michael Sheen). While trying not to blow up his cover, Thomas learns the horrifying truth about the cult and its vicinity in the island.
This year could be easily referred to as a tiny renaissance of cult-themed horrors.
Almost all of the most rewarding horror screenings of 2018 – “Hereditary”, “The Ritual” and even “Heretics” (became available only in 2018) – unraveled a mischievous, religious community. “Apostle”, directed by Gareth Evans, doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the table, but it’s on par with not only the aforementioned movies, but also with the all-time classics like “The Wicker Man”.
Frankly, the early stage of “Apostle” felt rushed and scattered. The editing’s rough, while Dan Stevens introduces his character as a gruesome caricature, glowering suspiciously at every person he passes by. He does get significantly better over the film (joining magnificent Michael Sheen and Lucy Boynton).
“Apostle” truly begins once we arrive to the island. We get to see the Michael Sheen and his malevolent appearance in the archaic, wooden church, built on a hill from where the leader oversees his sheep.
It is Sheen’s sermon when Gareth Evans brings out the dread in “Apostle”. From that moment, observing Thomas, as he dives deeper and deeper into the maddening mysteries of the congregation, becomes awfully unnerving in the most peculiarly entertaining manner.
Such an effect wouldn’t take place if not for the meticulous visual design. Whenever Evans takes the audience to a shack somewhere in the town or a temple hidden deep in the woods, the dingy setting becomes his auxiliary spooker. These bygone, raw sets are marvelously combined with the ominous soundtrack.
However, what truly terrifies in “Apostle”, is the bloody details that Evans incorporates to scare the hell out of you. His imagination works flawless within the constraints of a small island and only few locations. Unlike many other cult-related movies, “Apostle” is far from embracing the cult as its source of shivers. Instead, Gareth Evans frees his own imagination and lets it ride.
Some of his creations serve goosebumps – tropes like jump scares – while several elevate the fright experience to a whole new level. One of the most memorable scenes is the appearance of a half-naked man, with branches formed into a sort of helmet and blood smeared all over his chest, as he drags a person in a gunny sack.
“What truly terrifies in “Apostle”, is the bloody details that Evans incorporates to scare the hell out of you.”
Alas it wasn’t mentioned earlier, “Apostle” is also very bloody. There are extreme tortures and scenes, when the faint of heart will turn their eyes from the screen. However odd it might all look, Evans never crosses the line when his wicked creation becomes too much.
As a fan of horror movies of all kinds, I heartily recommend “Apostle”. It’s a nasty piece of a film, one that drills further and further, testing the tenacity of the audience. Who knows, maybe it will gain a cult following in some years – hopefully not as devoted as the one presented in “Apostle” itself.
Dir. Gareth Evans
Hate Grade: 3.5/10