REVIEW: “Apostle” (2018)

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Exploring the world of Netflix Originals can be a fascinating experience. You never quite know what you’re going to get. That especially holds true for their forays into the horror genre. Their new film “Apostle” definitely lands among the stronger titles in their Originals spectrum. Not only that, but it offers up something the horror genre has been in desperate need of – originality.

“Apostle” is written and directed by Gareth Evans best known for his Indonesian martial arts film “The Raid” and its sequel. “Apostle” is a much different venture, not just in terms of genre but with its setting and narrative style. Evans builds his story slowly while constantly giving us small bites of revelation. When the veil is finally dropped and the dots begin to connect, Evans lets loose his Victorian-era horror which is both gruesome and unpredictable.

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The film opens with one of the most striking shots I’ve seen all year as a train curls around a large body of water. The camera moves across the surface before resting at the edge of the tracks just as the train speeds by. Aboard is Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens), a disillusioned and tortured ex-missionary whose opium addiction is all that keeps his sanity intact.

Through a troubling letter Thomas gets word that his sister has been kidnapped by a mysterious cult demanding a ransom. He secretly infiltrates the cult’s ranks to discover his sister’s whereabouts. Even before he sets foot in the isolated island commune led by the charismatic ‘prophet’ Malcolm (Michael Sheen) we get the sense that something is not quite right. This dark and unsettling cloud looms over the entire film.

Stevens’ signature intensity and perpetual razor-sharp focus makes him a good fit for both phases of this story. The first being his arrival on the island and his subsequent investigation. The second which sends things plummeting into the macabre. Stevens gives an uneasy and off-kilter portrayal of a nervously determined man facing darkness both inside and out. It’s a role with a physical and psychological edge to it.

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The film’s visual composition is rich with indelible imagery ranging from beautiful to bleak. Evans and cinematographer Matt Flannery use the camera to accentuate the wickedly tense tone while carefully capturing a good sense of period and place. And rarely has a camera better captured a sense of terror. It is only enhanced when teamed up with Fajar Yusekemal and Aria Prayogi’s nerve-shredding score (perhaps the most evocative I’ve heard this year).

“Apostle” is an enthralling and imaginative slice of folk horror that exchanges cheap jump scares for an unrelenting dread. It should be said that this is not a film for the squeamish. The deeper we get into Evans’ fascinating mythology the more brutal and gory things become. The blood-soaked and metaphorically charged second half is sure to leave some squirming in their seats. But it’s fitting in this examination of oppression under the guise of religion and the costs of misguided faith. It also reveals that it is man who often shows himself to be the cruelest among all creatures.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

4-5-stars

20 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Apostle” (2018)

  1. Intriguing review. Consider me sold, i really enjoyed Dan Stevens’ enigmatic role in The Guest. Good to find him back in the horror realm.

    • Definitely give it a look. I was hooked from the opening shot. The cinematography is gorgeous. But it’s also a movie that gets crazy the further you go. I loved it.

  2. Currently working on an animated review for this one. I didn’t love it as much as you did, but I did kinda like it. Thought that the story could’ve been developed some more, because now everything felt very rushed. Great review!

  3. OK, now I’m interested as I was unsure about seeing it as I’m not really fond of a lot of things NetFlix does though I do want to see it out of support for Gareth Evans

    • Oh do give it a watch. I loved so many things about this movie. Just be ready, things get pretty gory. But it’s so much fun and I really appreciated the originality.

    • He really was. It’s an unusual performance and took me a minute to get in sync with it. But once I figured out what he was going for it made perfect sense.

    • No doubt! This is some of the best cinematography I have seen all year. And not just in the beautiful landscapes but also in the way they shoot the more horror-oriented scenes. This is a case where the camera really ratchets up the tension.

  4. Glad you liked it! I thought it was awesome, the script was a bit dodgy but the execution was amazing, that opening shot was indeed something! Stevens has such intensity and charisma, he’s terrific to watch

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