Director: Gareth Evans
Screenplay: Gareth Evans
Starring: Dan Stevens, Lucy Boynton, Mark Lewis Jones, Bill Milner, Kristine Froseth, Paul Higgins, Michael Sheen
Runtime: 129 Minutes
Apostle is a 2018 British-American period horror film set in 1905. It follows Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens), a former missionary who abandoned religion when he was tortured when he attempted to introduce Christianity to Peking during the Boxer Rebellion, as he travels to a remote Welsh island to rescue his beloved sister who has been kidnapped by a mysterious cult – led by Prophet Malcolm Howe (Michael Sheen) – demanding a ransom for her return.
This seems like a pretty far leap away from writer and director Gareth Evans’ previous films –critically acclaimed action series The Raid – but what Evans’ cut his teeth on in regard to extreme physical violence and a consistent sense of geography has carried over now that he’s returned to his native home.
This is a much slower paced film than those that focuses on the same sense of build-up, but instead of action sequences being the cathartic release, they’re instead a few bursts of extreme and frantic violence as the cult’s hierarchy begins to implode on itself.
It’s a period horror, but one that is not so much concerned with the sinister dread of say The Wicker Man as it is fury and wrath, with an overpowering score of claps, brass and screeching string evoking more the sensation of full-blooded horror than what is shown on screen.
Though it never turns into a full-on bloodbath the violence is deeply nasty and often cruel, and the lengths to which the narrative starts taking itself once the supernatural feel of everything becomes more apparent twisted is pretty entertaining.
Dan Stevens is continuing to prove himself a very matchless kind of actor when it comes to playing characters teetering on the verge of insanity, with a wildness in his eyes and a munching delivery to his dialogue that bears similarity to the methods of Nicholas Cage at times. Sheen is equally delectable at points too, channelling some of that hellfire that found it’s way to the surface in the Twilight franchise.
There have been a few missed for Netflix recently when it comes to notable filmmakers having their films released and, in some cases, produced by the service, but Apostle might mark the start of a turnaround. Even if you are seeking this out just to see what other insanity Evans might have dipped into this time, it’s a satisfying watch with strong performances even if it never manages to elevate to the enlighten that its narrative.