Fasten your seatbelts, because Gareth Evans has produced a deeply disturbing mixture of horror genres in Apostle (2018).
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 (2018), The Ritual (2018) and even Heretics (2017) (became available only in 2018) – unraveled a mischievous, religious community.
And Apostle (2018), 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 (1973).
What is Apostle (2018) about?
In Apostle (2018), a man named Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) embarks on a journey to an isolated island, somewhere near the British coast, to find his kidnapped sister. Rumor has it she has been held for ransom by a sinister cult led by its charismatic leader (Michael Sheen). While trying not to blow up his cover, Thomas learns the horrifying truth about the cult and its vicinity in the island.
In the beginning, Apostle (2018) feels slightly rushed and scattered plot-wise. The editing’s rough around the edges, while Dan Stevens grotesque caricature, as the actor glowers suspiciously at every person he passes by, strikes as artificial. However, he does get significantly better over the film though (joining forces with Michael Sheen and Lucy Boynton).
Evans might have a hard time when starting the engine, but once it sparks, Apostle (2018) truly opens its box of horrors. The moment Michael Sheen and his malevolent followers appear in an archaic-looking, wooden church, shit’s about go down.
The island of horrors in Apostle (2018)
It is Sheen’s sermon when Gareth Evans brings out the first dreadful moment in Apostle (2018). Observing Thomas from that point and onwards, as he dives deeper into the maddening mysteries of the congregation, becomes unnerving in the most peculiarly entertaining manner.
That’s Gareth Evans’ superbly effective and meticulous visual design at play here. Whenever Evans takes the audience to a shack somewhere in the town or an eerie temple hidden deep in the woods, the dingy setting becomes his auxiliary spooker. These bygone, raw sets are marvelously combined with the ominous soundtrack, composed by duo Aria Prayogi, Fajar Yuskemal. This score, close to Robert Eggers’ The Witch (2015), imbues this imagery with an absolutely horrific shade.
From the cult to the surroundings, evil lurks from everywhere
What truly terrifies in Apostle (2018), is also the bloody details that Evans incorporates to scare the hell out of you. His imagination works flawlessly within the constraints of a small island and only few locations. Unlike many other cult-related movies, Apostle (2018) is far from embracing the group as its main source of shivers. Instead, Gareth Evans frees his own imagination and lets it ride.
Therefore, some of his creations elevate the fright experience to a whole new level. One of the most memorable scenes for me 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. With the camera slowly following the creature, Evans proves what he’s great at – the slow-burn moments of dread.
Despite its atmosphere-over-gore design, Apostle (2018) gets very bloody occasionally. Extreme tortures and scenes might cause the faint of heart turn their eyes from the screen.
As a fan of horror movies of all kinds, I heartily recommend Apostle (2018). It’s a thrilling 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, but hopefully not as devoted as the one presented in Apostle (2018) itself.
Apostle (2018) – Culturally Loved or Hated?
The brooding atmosphere covers a troubling plot, and through the gruesome – and undeniably inventive – scares, Gareth Evans delivers a finely crafted, occultist horror.
Hate Grade: 3.5/10
Director: Gareth Evans
Writers: Gareth Evans
Starring: Dan Stevens, Paul Higgins, Lucy Boynton, Michael Sheen, Mark Lewis Jones
Music: Aria Prayogi, Fajar Yuskemal
Cinematography: Matt Flannery
Where to watch: Netflix
If you liked Apostle (2018), and are looking for similar movies, here’s a few you might like:
- The Witch (2015) – debut of Robert Eggers, this is masterpiece of visual feast and climactic setting, and despite a lack of gore, this is an absolutely haunting experience
- The Ritual (2017) – another Netflix darling, set in Sweden woodlands and with a decent amount of equally grim scares
- The Wind (2018) – Emma Tammi’s tale set in the outback prairie is a twisted horror about women empowerment, and a must-see for its phenomenal atmosphere
- You can also check out my list of 12 best occult horror movies of all time