Written and directed by Gareth Evans, Apostle proves itself to be an unsettling journey into a dark corner of the world.
It is a horror film that starts out as one thing and finishes having mutated into another. The film plays out to be like an homage to Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973) with much better costumes, more unsettling customs, and a lot of blood and gore.
1. Quick Review
Thomas Richardson returns home to find that his sister is being held for ransom by a religious cult. He travels to the cult’s remote island, determined to bring her back home.
He joins the community and learns that greed and corruption have spread through the cult’s levels. The deeper Thomas digs, the more secrets he uncovers. Will he be able to find his sister before it is too late?
This macabre thriller is set on a remote Welsh island in 1902. Evans trades the intensity of hand-to-hand combat in the Raid series for a farcical patchwork of espionage, estranged family dynamics, and half-formed supernatural conceits.
2. Is it worth watching?
For a man who shot to popularity for the Raid series and his stunt sequences in the films, Evans starts Apostle off to be a psychological riff of The Wicker Man. Eventually, it transforms itself to be a much more blood-filled and gory take on the original 1973 film.
Apostle changes throughout, from setting the stage for a daring rescue mission to being one with an eerie atmosphere, and a slow burn.
Evans spends the first hour of the film carving out a niche of an eerie, slow-burn atmosphere. In the convoluted second half of Apostle, we see many dangling plotlines running loose.
There is intense visceral gnarl in the film. Especially because it is delivered in sudden twists and shocking bursts; it is made even more violent and scary to the viewer. Apostle offers well-executed direction and cinematography. People are stabbed and maimed in a conventionalized plot in a frail bid to keep viewers from growing tired.
At first, Apostle sets the scene for what seems to be a bold rescue operation. Thomas Richardson (played by Dan Stevens) is the estranged son of a wealthy British family.
He is asked to recover his kidnapped sister Andrea (played by Lucy Boynton) from a remote island where she’s being held by an enigmatic cult. Once at the island, Thomas finds himself in a religious utopian community overseen by Prophet Malcolm (played by Michael Sheen).
As henchmen keep guard and the town silently lives off the land, Thomas goes hunting for signs of his sister’s kidnapping. What he finds instead will be much more evil than he knows.
Meanwhile, there is a side plot involving a clandestine relationship between the young man (played by Bill Milner) recruited by Thomas and a local girl (played by Kristine Froseth). The girl’s father (played by Mark Lewis Jones), emerges as a lunatic villain.
He spews his madness at dazed locals whose subservience is never really explained. The prophet also lacks enough backstory for Sheen to give him the depth the narrative demands. Frazzled? Same.
II. Music & Visuals
The music directors of this film are Fajar Yuskemal and Aria Prayogi. Both of them are Indonesian film score composers who have previously worked with Evans in the Raid series. Songs in the soundtrack of this film include Mother of Mine by Neil Reed, Broad is The Road by John Hardy, Ave Satani by Jerry Goldsmith, and This Is Not A Dream by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth.
In a forbidding corner of his native place of Wales, Evans invents the fictional isle of Erisden. It is a barely arable patch of far-flung turf where the film is set.
The film is tantalizingly rich in atmosphere and unhurried in revealing its secrets. It has been evocatively shot in ultra-widescreen.
The film will eventually veer into a very dark, supernatural territory with little light and lesser mercy. Through its ending, Apostle proves that it can take a break from reality to confront the source of the community’s staunch pagan beliefs.
3. Final Thoughts
Apostle makes it clear that it does not exist to present a straightforward narrative. Some people may call it confusing and will be left in distaste. The film’s portrayal of blood and gore through a twisted plotline may not be for everyone.
However, the eagerness with which Evans delivers his vision is admirable. The film itself is exhilarating to watch and surprises its audience with multiple plot twists. Just as the viewer believes they’ve understood the kind of horror story they’re in for, Evans cuts them off.
He builds the film up to an almost operatic climax and leaves the audience stunned at the end, albeit a little muddled.
Apostle lures the viewer into a false sense of security before snatching it away. Although the film is polarizing, it is an indisputably fascinating watch.