Horror films are permeating the market and have for some time. Seeing as it is October, it’s no surprise that Netflix saved Gareth Evans’ newest film Apostle for the spooky season. The film has no shortness of gore, blood, and sinister dealings. Beyond the casting, Apostle has nothing new to give the genre. In fact, Evans seems to employ all the typical tropes of horror films, little characterization, lots of blood, and little to no plot.
Dan Stevens plays Thomas Richardson, a man addicted to laudanum (but amazingly has no withdrawal symptoms ever) who is believed to be dead but is summoned to his family’s aide when his sister is captured by a cult. Prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen) captured her for a ransom so that the island where the cult lives can be prosperpous. For years, the island has been suffering. The crops have been dying. The animals have not been having babies that are viable.
Thomas infiltrates the cult and meets Malcolm’s daughter Andrea (Lucy Boynton) as well as Ffion (Kristine Froseth) and Jeremy (Bill Miller). Things go downhill the more Thomas discovers the situation on the island and the bodies Malcolm has been hiding underground for years.
First off, I hate horror films. I also dislike supernaturally tinged anything. That being said, none of that colours this review. The most important parts of films are story, acting, cinematography, and direction. Apostle has only two things really going for it: the cinematography and acting. The story and direction weren’t strong enough to carry for two hours.
The cinematography is breathtaking in Apostle. Matt Flannery created a truly beautiful masterpiece of atmosphere in the face of terror and bloodshed. The island where the commune is located is presented as a beautiful sanctuary, free from the world, when the audience is first introduced to it. As the film continues to deteriorate and the island continues to deteriorate with it (or vice versa), Flannery keeps up with the dark and foreboding tone.
As for the acting? There’s no argument that Sheen and Stevens were well cast. From the get go, Stevens had this wildly interesting sort of manic energy going for him. It never fizzled, even as things went from bad to worse. Sheen was the same. As Prophet Malcolm, Sheen was intense. That’s the only word I can aptly use to describe him. The story was so underdeveloped that the horror was there for sheer spectacle. The script never gave Stevens and Sheen enough time to interact with each other. Their relationship is where the plot truly could have thrived.
What we got was a typical horror film with supernatural underpinnings that were never properly and fully explained. It was a madcap plot that served no purpose than to be gory and nerve-wracking for ill-defined reasons. It was gore for the sake of gore. Gore? Evans can handle. What he struggles with here is never conveying to the audience why it’s important.
It’s a shame that Apostle isn’t the film I was expecting it to be. It could have been so much more. While it was intense and atmospheric and Stevens is a brilliant actor, the film never pulled off all that it could have. This movie would have been far better suited for a psychological thriller or even a suspense thriller ala Hitchcock. The horror, the gore, and poor writing bog it down. Ultimately, it doesn’t give the audience what it truly needs to thrive.
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