Lovecraftian sensibilities converge in the hellish ride that is Director, Gareth Evans latest offering, Apostle.
This film checks each and everyone of Fantastic Fest’s boxes in terms of genre greatness. Apostle offers up a healthy helping of dread, packed into a period piece that echoes of the best of 70s horror. Particularly the kind of 70s horror that dealt with evil cults and otherworldly worship.
Apostle finds Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) sent on a mission to find and save his sister from the clutches of a enigmatic cult. The cult prides themselves on equality among all of its members by sharing everything and by allowing repentant criminals seeking redemption into its ranks. But, with corruption at an arms reach, and evil forces in the woods, the amiable face of the mysterious cult may not be the paradise its followers signed up for.
Director, Gareth Evans helmed martial arts badass fests The Raid 1 & 2, and switches to an entirely new genre in the field of supernatural, mystic horror with Apostle. The result proves that this dude, can just about do anything and make it look and feel great.
What Evans does particularly-well is bring over his experience with big action sequences and contains them into tiny pockets of intensely gory set pieces. These sequences are peppered in over the films runtime and are each more viscerally-potent and bone rattling than the last. In other words, when shit goes down, shit really goes down.
Apostle, is a period piece and uses the tongue and fortitude of the time, to tell the perplexing mystery that comes undone in layers throughout. Paranoia and evil run rampant as Richardson tries to conceal his identity and intentions among the cult and its forefathers. The result is a strange, thickly layered tension that methodically eats away at the audience.
The film does a great job of exploring corruption within bodies of power and ultimately religion. The deconstruction of higher powers who use their will as a tool that leads to ultimate corruption is at play throughout. The whole thing makes it a hoot to look at our current state of the political and the religious where possible good intent can and will sour.
The score by Fajar Yuskemal and Aria Pryogi is just as rattling as Evans intensely well-capture big gore moments. Strings cut through the tension while also creating a melting pot of east, west and everything in between to showcase the variety of folks who have come to call this cult home.
Evans and his team sure as hell know how to kill folks in creative ways and follows the cine-testament of “the worst the person is the harder they have to die.” Apostle constantly doubles-down on its next explosive gore scene by coming up with devilish ways to lay waste to anyone who stands in the way.
Stevens who we genre fans know from The Guest and Legion is in it to win it here. His straight-laced and laudanum-addicted character has room to play, in his near madness. Stevens takes full advantage of this by steering hard into the period piece with a large performance that matches the carnage going on around him.
There is a lot more I want to go into about the more supernatural of the elements at work here, and how that extends deeply into certain brilliant takes on mythology. But its really something that is best experienced rather than discussed here.