Photo: Warren Orchard / Netflix

Movie Review: Apostle (2018)

Apostle (dir. Gareth Evans, 2018) – Thomas Richardson travels to a remote island to rescue his sister from a religious cult, demanding a ransom for her safe return.

Verdict

Ostensibly to do with the supernatural in its grim mythology, Apostle concerns itself more with the devious nature of Man in their acts.

4/5

Review

Writer-director Gareth Evans may be best known for his choreography-driven craft in The Raid and Merantau. But his latest venture is an altogether different beast. Abandoning the high-octane action that defined Evans’ early career, Apostle contrastingly keeps its pace steady with patience, and prowls with quiet intensity.

Following a brief exploration in anthology V/H/S 2 (‘Safe Haven’), Evans’ first true step into horror cinema marks a deeper foray into the subject of pagan cults. The suspenseful genre feature comes in at a little over two hours. Not a second feels extraneous, continually building a palpable sense of dread.

Apostle

Anxiety heightens as each moment passes. There is no telling of what shall befall Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens), who infiltrates an isolated cult he knows little about. Far from civilisation, his mission to save his sister is one of unknowns and danger under the watchful eyes of cult leader Malcolm Howe (Michael Sheen).

Menace further mounts in the settlers’ perturbing rituals of bloodletting for a mysterious goddess, who promises fertility in trade of sacrifices. Slivers of truth in what appears a myth slowly unveil in unsettling terms. There marks a clue to the fates of those who wield unwelcome secrets, and Richardson is not the only one.

Calculatedly restrained, Apostle makes for devilishly compelling horror that distances itself from potential schlock, sharing closer resemblance to Robin Hardy’s cult classic The Wicker Man and Christopher Smith’s underrated Black Death. Gareth Evans finds his own voice and shows tremendous creative ambition in his exploration of the perils behind religious dogmas. His narrative boldly crosses between occult fable and harrowing reality, the latter of which brings dark foreboding.

Apostle

What few violent acts there are, exist out of necessity to the story rather than for the purpose of gratuitous shock. There is much to learn in how the cruelty often comes of the deceptively mild-mannered men, who play God and define sins in their own terms.

While the finale is bound to impress and entreat interpretations, it is the unflinching imagery of a nasty purification rite that sears the deepest of all. In the horrifying sequence of a shocking death, Apostle deeply perturbs in its cynical and unsubtle display, of how a sacrifice-demanding deity may be entirely unmatched by the evils of Man.

10 thoughts on “Movie Review: Apostle (2018)”

  1. Great review of an intriguing film. I felt that all the elements were there to make this a classic cult horror thriller but Dan Stevens’s character was so rushed at the beginning. Because of this I did not feel as connected to his journey as I should have been. The flashback sequence in the second act revealing what happened to him in the past, I think, should have been placed near the beginning. That would have established the journey of a loss-of-faith priest looking for redemption more powerful. Still, Dan Stevens was great and the film had some fascinating themes and horror moments.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I absolutely agree; Stevens’ character could’ve done with less ambiguity at the start. His vague motives made him difficult to empathise with, at least until we see bits of his past surface. Otherwise, it’s a pretty solid film that’s thematically strong enough to keep things compelling. Thank you for giving this a read! ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My wife and I both enjoyed this movie, and typically she’s not a horror, slasher, or scifi fan. It is dark, disturbing, and basically creepy from start to end. The one fault I have, even after going back and watching the beginning again, is I’d rather it had a more blunt approach about why he is going to the island. Maybe I just missed it (twice), or maybe part of the eeriness was in the mystery, but it took me a while to figure out exactly what he was trying to accomplish. Besides that, all was excellent.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The creepy atmosphere is certainly Apostle’s strong suit. And you bring up a great point about his vague motives. A more established backstory at the start would’ve made for a much more sympathetic and memorable character. Still, Dan Stevens did a terrific job with what he was given!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree! He’s been excellent in his recent roles. I haven’t had a chance to see Legion, but it’s on my watchlist. Have heard great things about his performance there.

          Liked by 1 person

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