Apostle - Review
by Luke McGoldrick
Gareth Evans’ Apostle, a 2018 Netflix original about a man rescuing his sister from a cult of hardcore puritans, very much surprised me, as it was refreshing to see a recent horror film hitting all the right notes.
Set in 1905, the story follows a drifter and former missionary named Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens), tasked with rescuing his kidnapped sister from a mysterious cult living on an island somewhere in Wales. The family refuses to pay the ransom demanded by the cult; Thomas must travel to the mysterious island, pose as a new member and get his sister out of there himself.
At first, I was concerned that the story would lose its appeal after the first twenty minutes or so – I was dead wrong. The film totally delivers on its exciting premise. Evans has written a carefully constructed horror film that keeps the tension strong all the way through. The film gets more and more exciting with genuine on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense. Whenever it drops, it quickly goes back up again with another unbelievably insane and creepy thing happening. You’re worried for the character as he regularly comes close to being caught by the cultists, but there’s also an intriguing mystery surrounding the cult leaders and what they’re hiding underground.
As much as I enjoyed Apostle, it doesn’t have much going on aesthetically and is generally quite a bland looking film. Considering it takes place on a muddy island village, everyone was a bit too polished looking. The costume and set design, which looked unrealistic, felt at odds with the gritty tone of the film. The acting however is phenomenal, especially Michael Sheen as the Prophet Malcolm, the paranoid cult leader losing his grip over the village. The rest of the cast were also incredible.
Evans previously directed the groundbreaking martial arts film The Raid (2011), known for its brilliantly shot fight scenes and choreography. Apostle is a different kind of film, but you can see Evans’ unique way of directing action in the few fight scenes throughout it. He has an exceptional way of immersing you in the action with fast-paced editing and fluid camera work. Overall, it’s a far from subtle film, but still an effective and thrilling piece of gory horror that I’d recommend to any fan of the genre.