Apostle (2018)
★★★ / ★★★★

The name Gareth Evans is not yet a household name, but trust that in time it will be.

Stepping out of the Indonesian martial arts pictures “The Raid” and its superior sequel, writer-director Evans offers a period horror film in which a man named Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) infiltrates a religious cult after his sister’s kidnapping. The ransom note demands that their father be the one to visit the island, but it is impossible given that the old man is no longer mentally present. “Apostle” is a film that could have been told in ninety minutes, but its length, particularly its willingness to immerse the viewer in the villagers’ way of life, is exactly what I admired about it. It puts the audience into a specific mood as insane images begin to parade across the screen like multiple crashes with gruesome fatalities. It is no “Final Destination 2” but gorehounds are certain to be satisfied.

It does magic right by keeping it minimal. Residents of the isolated Welsh island revere a goddess that provides them good crops—at least until recently. Lately, the crops have become toxic and the animals stopped breeding. Those that did end up giving birth, they produced abnormal offsprings, certain to die out of the womb. Although this island is rooted in magical workings, I enjoyed the decision to downplay it. As a result, visual effects, like CGI, is almost never required in order to get the point across. Instead, we learn to rely on our imagination when practical effects are shown to us. For instance, we are shown the insides of crops, how its contents react to water. There is implication that it would lead to death if eaten.

Another example is showing the goddess herself. Focusing on her magic, like what results after having to wave her arms around, would have been laughable, inappropriate in a story like this. Instead, the camera focuses on her withered appearance, perhaps even inspiring us to wonder how she might have looked like during her prime. There is a sadness in her appearance; it is the correct decision not to make her look scary or terrifying in a classical sense. Because the point of the story, I think, is that the humans, especially three former convicts who started the cult (Michael Sheen, Mark Lewis Jones, Paul Higgins), are the monsters, not the supernatural elements that we typically fear.

The film is beautifully photographed, from the aerial shots of the verdant island down to the well-worn ground that the characters tread upon. Huts look convincing and floorboards look dingy and fragile. And so when a character, for instance, breaks down walls or falls through floorboards with seeming ease, there is believability to it. Surprisingly, there is also beauty in the torture scenes, particularly when devices are utilized. Notice how the camera is not afraid to be as close as possible when sharp metal hits human flesh. It dares us to keep looking even though we feel absolutely disgusted—partly tickled—with what is occurring.

“Apostle” is a horror film worth seeing because it strives to absorb the viewers into a particular world rather than simply providing cheap entertainment. While it lacks in generic jump scares, which are not scary anyway, a thick and foreboding atmosphere can be felt throughout. It dares to embrace the strange, willing to take advantage of culture-specific mythos many of us may not be familiar with. After all, what is horror but a glimpse inside of an alien world that we can only try to make sense of?

10 replies »

      • okay I will give it a go later tonight. You need to watch “Invisible Guest” soon b/c I really want to know what you think. It’s got a twist similar as The Hidden Face. :)

        • Nice. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on it so let me know.

          I’ll try to get to “The Invisible Guest” soon. Maybe this weekend, but I can’t promise anything. It looks moody and I’m a sucker for foreign thrillers. It looks good. But you shouldn’t have told me there was a twist. Now, I’ll be on the lookout and try to figure it out before the reveal. :p

          • Go ahead and try all you want, but YOU WON’T FIGURE IT OUT! lol. That’s the genius of the film, and that’s why i wanted to see what you think about it and how surprised you are by it. Bump it to the top of your to-see list! :)

          • i watched “Apostle” or at least like 2/3 of it. I really was turned off when that father murdered his daughter, and then the way he started barking at everyone was just over-the-top to the point it became silly, which is where I turned it off. I scanned the view bar and could tell they tortured the daughter’s boyfriend – and then i saw the end, which I thought was cliche. I actually thought the first half was good, and then it came off the rails. Not a bad recommendation though b/c i like some films that are similar. I just thought this one could have been executed and directed better.

            *Also, I am tired of all these films as of late that are way too dark to see what’s going on. I stopped watching this other film on netflix “Calibre” halfway through b/c it was too dark.

            • I agree to an extent that the build-up of “Apostle” is stronger than post-climax. The ending was OK for me. But I cringe when you describe snippets of scenes later on without being aware of the finer details that lead up to those scenes. I can’t imagine doing that. I’m glad you gave it a chance.

              Too dark to see? I didn’t have that problem with this movie. (I haven’t seen “Calibre.) Are you sure the settings on your TV is good? lol. You want to talk about too dark to see? I saw this movie called “He’s Out There” this weekend. It’s awful, don’t watch it. It hurt my eyes. It’s like looking through a really bad filter. It’s such a lame way to make the movie look more atmospheric or moody than it actually is.

              • Yeah, my settings are good; it was during a sequence at night where it was so dark. I didn’t mean I couldn’t see anything at all. The viewer just couldn’t see very well, and that’s annoying to me…

                I watched the movie (all the way though) up until the father killed his daughter and blamed it on the boyfriend; once he racked him up to drill his head open, I turned it off b/c I didn’t find it enjoyable at all. The movie was just over-the-top with his bad over-acting, and then the way the community blindly followed him, and then going to the extreme of the way he killed the boy. At that point I could tell the movie was only going to go downhill…

                I actually saw “He’s Out There” last August. I actually thought it was really good until the end felt cliched. It did definitely have some dark scenes where it was hard to see in those woods sequences. At the very least, the build-up of the first half was really good, I thought…

                So, you watched “He’s Out There” last weekend when you were supposed to watch The Invisible Guest??? I’m glad you hated it, IT SERVES YOU RIGHT. lol. :)

                • LOL The reason why I watched “He’s Out There” is because I still get physical Netflix movies so when they arrive in the mail, I feel compelled to watch them. The last time I checked, “The Invisible Guest” is available via streaming. Honestly, those streaming movies I tend to put off very often. That should change… I’ll get there!

                  I hated “He’s Out There” so much. I think it’s the worst movie I’ve seen this year so far. If I could pay to un-see it, I would.

                  • yeah, you should definitely see The Invisible Guest asap b/c it could leave streaming in the near future just as The Hidden Face did.

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