Starring: Dan Stevens, Bill Milner, Lucy Boynton, and Michael Sheen
Director: Gareth Evans
Writer: Gareth Evans
Cinematographer: Matt Flannery
Reviewed by Evan Maroun
If you’re anything like me, October reared its shiny orange head, and you ran into the arms of your favorite streaming service looking for anything worthwhile to get you into the mood for this spooky season. Then, once again, like me–realized that most streaming services are painfully lackluster when it comes to Horror. This year, Netflix is here to try and fix that… at least if you don’t mind committing to a few TV series. As for films, Apostle has landed on the service.
Directed by Gareth Evans, who is almost exclusively known for his kinetic and untiring action films: The Raid and The Raid 2, Apostle is something quite different. Rather than a constant barrage of action set-pieces, Edwards decides to try his hand at a slower period piece this time around. After receiving an alarming letter from his sister, Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) ventures to a mysterious island to find her. While trying to maintain a low profile, he finds the leader of a religious cult on the island (Michael Sheen) holding her captive. Naturally (Or perhaps supernaturally in this case) the sinister deeds of those in charge start to unravel as Richardson delves deeper on his rescue mission.
Apostle does a lot of things right. It has a slow-burn of an opening act with very minimal dialogue spoken by the main character during its set-up to draw you in. It also imagines and texturizes an early 1900’s backdrop to great effect. The town just feels grimy and foreboding. It’s not quite to the level of something like The Witch in it’s attention to detail and overall authenticity, but then again, not much does.
Evan’s brings Flannery back as Cinematographer to capture this story, and everytime someone is forced into action, it is wholly apparent. He does not offer much in the way of stylistic departure from The Raid in these scenes, and that not necessarily a bad thing. This type of movie needs that shot of adrenaline periodically. Those hoping for a handful of action scenes will leave disappointed. Gorehounds, however, will have a couple of scenes to look forward to, primarily in the second half. One tension-filled scene, in particular, had me saying “Okay… so they really went there.”
As you may imagine, in his mission, Richardson stumbles in navigating this dangerous community, and unfortunately, so does the movie. Dialogue, when it comes, isn’t the most inspired, with cliche dialogue even in the trailer. In the later acts, the movie also gets tangled up a bit in its own story. If you’re not paying attention, you may be left scratching your head at the end.
The film runs a little over 2 hours. After all, is said and done, it won’t take long to realize it could’ve easily been tightened and trimmed for cohesion, especially towards the first half. The main subplot in the film revolves around a boy named Jeremy and his secret relationship with a girl on the island. This plot felt necessary to help drive one of the film’s theme home. It lacked immediacy up until a point, and the way it wraps up felt a little too forced. Even in some scenes with Sheen who gives a particularly interesting performance, the movie still feels like it could absolutely sustain a quicker pace.
Verdict: Watch it
The best way to quickly describe what this movie is if you took the Silent Hill game series, mixed it with The Wicker Man and told Guillermo Del Toro to “do your thing” in regards to the more supernatural elements at play. Despite its flaws, I’d say it still resides on the upper tier of Netflix offerings in the genre.