REVIEW: Apostle (2018)

Year: 2018
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Starring: Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, Richard Elfyn, Paul Higgins, Lucy Boynton

Written by Jo Craig

There is a rare moment after watching a film where you sit and stare at the credits, or even pause them rolling altogether whilst wearing a perplexed expression. Your brain frantically tries to decipher the last couple of hours you’ve spent watching a feature that carries its pros and cons, but leaves you with the hanging expression: “What the fuck?”. Gareth Evans’ Apostle hit Netflix at the start of Halloween season, and my thoughts are still stuck inside his brutal cult horror that had an avid gore fan glancing away to “take a moment”.

The premise of Apostle lies in the early twentieth century, following infiltrator Thomas (Dan Stevens) as he travels to a remote island to rescue his sister who has been taken hostage by a religious cult. Lead through blinding faith and insanity, Prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen) demands her rich father to pay a ransom so his sect can continue to thrive in their segregated habitat, but Thomas soon uncovers a larger plan at work that explains the devotion of Malcolm and his followers.

Only viewing the trailer last month, I was giddy to see Apostle arrive on our favourite streaming platform so soon to let the grim rituals begin. Grim stood as a massive understatement by the end of Evans’ Welsh folktale (in stripped-back terms) that is rich in exposing the evil behind religious loyalty but perhaps suffers in its colossal leap to explain the abnormal. By the end, I was exhausted. Not surprising from the director of The Raid (Apostle being Evans’ first English language film since his first feature Footsteps) where his joint effort in direction and penning is admirable and driven with enough force to support the unforgettable scenes of the macabre.

Dan Stevens has had quite a genre shift from his recent silver screen entries (Beauty and the Beast, The Man Who Invented Christmas) making his role in Apostle surprising for the charming actor whose dabbling with horror only reached the extent of his fantastic cult superhero show Legion. Nevertheless, Stevens is first class and full of expression, whose piercing blue eyes are a character in themselves; Wide in terror on top a blood-soaked body was so visually effective and his permanent furrowed brow resembled my face as the plot thickened. Michael Sheen brought a powerful performance to witness as the proud prophet who was certainly a grounding character to hold on to as the waves of fantasy swept in to aggravate an already seasick stomach.

Undoubtedly gripped by every slow building scene in the first hour – too engrossed, in fact, to even recognise a thirst that had been developing while my jaw grazed the floor – Evans’ understanding of suspense has to be applauded. The raw brutality – that you would expect from his direction – tangled with threads of hyperbolic lore may be the gigantic leap of faith that some viewers won’t be willing to take. Personally, the added mythical element restrained a considered tale from being nothing more than a mindless gore-fest that you’d expect from Eli Roth. Instead, Apostle resembles (at points) greats like The Wicker Man that build on the terrifying feeling of isolation and play on belief and faith in various different ways pertaining to which character has the spotlight. In an abstract way of thinking, the tale’s progression could emulate bible chapters as they introduce each character and acknowledge their beliefs whether for or against the unorthodox civilisation they have ended up living in, further proving that Evans has a sound method behind the madness.

Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal’s tour de force score holds your attention in a vice even from the title screen with a resounding ambience that is deliberately too loud to ignore. A series of haunting choirs and screeching strings (reminiscent to Mother!) only drives the audience into a deeper state of discomfort that supports Evans’ crippling tension and the religious nature of the premise. As you hear every overwhelming roar of instruments, Yuskemal’s sound design never lets you miss a crunch of bone which adds credence to Evans’ skilful decision-making as a horror filmmaker.

This dark crusade will no doubt divide audiences and troublesome psyches as it’s not for the faint-hearted, but although fantasy and horror are mixed and often overpowering in the denouement, its hold over you never slackens despite its lengthy runtime of 130 min. It’s not the likeliest of films to end up on your Halloween marathon nor a film that I would revisit in the near future, but regardless of possibly being the heaviest film of the year, Apostle respectively thrives in its originality.  If being squeamish is your downfall, then forcing yourself through the torture of watching an albeit, for lack of a better term, thought-provoking horror, is pointless and conclusively a feature you can afford to miss.

Jo’s Verdict:

3-5

                              

Netflix Release First Trailer For Gareth Evans’ ‘Apostle’

“London, 1905. Prodigal son Thomas Richardson has returned home, only to learn that his sister is being held for ransom by a religious cult. Determined to get her back at any cost, Thomas travels to the idyllic island where the cult lives under the leadership of the charismatic Prophet Malcolm. As Thomas infiltrates the island’s community, he learns that the corruption of mainland society that they claim to reject has infested the cult’s ranks nonetheless – and uncovers a secret far more evil than he could have imagined.”

Directed by: Gareth Evans

Cast: Dan Stevens, Lucy Boynton, Mark Lewis Jones, Bill Milner, Kristine Froseth, Michael Sheen

Release Date: October 12th, 2018 (Netflix)

School’s A Bloody Nightmare In First Trailer For New Horror-Comedy ‘Slaughterhouse Rulez’

“Welcome to Slaughterhouse, an elite boarding school where boys and girls are groomed for power and greatness…and they’re about to meet their match. This ancient and ordered world is about to be shaken to its foundations – literally – when a controversial frack site on prized school woodland causes seismic tremors, a mysterious sinkhole, and an unspeakable horror to be unleashed. Soon a new pecking order will be established as the pupils and teachers alike become locked in a bloody battle for survival…”

Directed by: Crispian Mills

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Asa Butterfield, Finn Cole, Hermione Corfield, Michael Sheen

Release Date: October 31st, 2018

Home Again

Year: 2017
Directed by: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Starring: Reece Witherspoon, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen, Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky.  

Written by Andrew Garrison

I wasn’t compelled to see this film, but it seemed wholesome enough to give a chance to. This is one of those films that you see coming and know exactly what you are getting –  a mature romantic comedy with some feel-good moments, a silly plot with three guys and a girl living together. Predictable, but enjoyable. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with that, but there are plenty of movies of the same style and context. What separates this from other films? I engage it to find out.

‘Home Again’ is about a single middle-aged woman (Reece Witherspoon) who feels trapped in her life with an estranged father and two young girls to care for. She winds up having a presumed one-night stand with an attractive young man, but complications arise. Now the three young men are living with her as they have nowhere else to go, and sure enough, things escalate into a full-blown romantic comedy.

The fact is, there isn’t anything terrible about this film,  although one could use the term
cookie-cutter comedy to define it. The acting is serviceable enough, but nobody in this film should be nominated for an Oscar because of their work here. Things fall into place much too easily, one would expect more apprehension and conflict especially early on, but it all gets swept under the rug, which is unrealistic. I believe there are nice young men in the world who would be respectful, mature, and docile enough to make this work. However, the chances of finding three of them and having them stay at your home without serious issues. Too much fantasy in that. While all the characters are likable to a point, you have a lot of familiar roles. The out-of- touch and insensitive dad, the sensitive more wholesome guy, and the attractive more self-centred personality, and let’s not forget the wishy-washy middle-age woman who gets frazzled easily. You have seen this all before and will surely see it again as soon as next year.

I’m ripping on the film for its overused elements, but there are some aspects to appreciate. It remembers to be a light-hearted comedy with a few laughs sprinkled in throughout. There could have been more, but the humour and the characters were likable enough to keep me engaged in the film from start to finish.

Without spoiling much, there are some mature themes to the film. From dealing with a divided family to the messy romantic nature of a film with three young men staying with a woman in need of some comfort, support, and reliability. It hits all those emotional strings you would expect from a rom-com, but with limited eye-rolling which I was thankful for. The ending wraps everything into a nice package, but doesn’t end as predictable as it could have. It was a more modern and frankly refreshing conclusion in that sense.

Also, as an older millennial, it is refreshing to see my generation be portrayed as conflicted, ambitious, but good-natured human beings. People who are capable of being decent all the while pursuing their dreams. A welcome change compared to the bulk of raunchy over-the-top comedies filled with atrocious human beings which is trending in Hollywood now. Also, let me give a quick shout out to both young female actresses for their work in this one. I found the youngest daughter, Rosie, played by Eden Grace Redfield to be delightful with nearly every line she speaks.

In the end, the film gives you exactly what you expected. A comedic romp mixed in with
some classic silly romantic entanglements. All of it wrapped up in a nice package in roughly 90 minutes of time. It isn’t an Oscar worthy comedy, but it is inoffensive, feel-good, Hollywood cheese one can sit back and relax with. If it has an upside, it is the willingness to approach an unusual situation in a modern and mature light, and showcasing millennials as decent human beings. A middle ground comedy with some upside and that’s just fine.

ANDREW’S RATING: 6.4/10

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