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Apostle Review: Ruthless! Terrifying!

Starring – Dan Stevens and Kristine Froseth
Director – Gareth Evans
Genre – Period Horror
Streaming Platform – Netflix 

A period horror film, Apostle (2018), a Netflix production, revolves around Thomas Richardson, a former missionary set on rescuing his sister who has been kidnaped and held ransom by a religious cult. Following the concept of tense and creepy atmospheric films like The Invitation and The Innocents, Apostle, is an intense yet steady descent into terror.

It is pleasing to see how horror film directors are slowly learning to let slide cheap thrills and horrible jump scares in favour for slow-building storylines and unsettling dread. While he has contributed to the anthology horror film 'VHS 2' in 2013, this is director Gareth Evan’s first attempt at a full-length horror feature. Having carved a name for himself through violent martial arts epics like 'The Raid' films, Evans has retained his signature choreographic style and penchant for blood while venturing into dark horror territory. There is a distinctive mood of desperation set as the tone of the film throughout. Right from the get go, the audience will be able to feel how the environment presented to you feels wrong but magnetic at the same time. The camera-work deserves a round of applause here as scenes of chaos and intensity are shot at angles that really adds on the frenzy.

The performance by the lead cast were phenomenal. Dan Stevens plays the lead protagonist; Thomas and he gives a brooding shade to his character. He treads the fine line between subtlety and theatrics, giving the audience best of the both that suits the nature of the period the film is set in. Michael Sheen plays the charismatic cult leader, Malcolm, and it is brilliant. Sheen’s acting prowess is pronounced with his body language and smouldering screen presence and he delivers an extraordinary performance. The cast of the film were well-chosen and not a single character put a foot wrong. I believe that it is the mark of a good director to bring out the best in his actors and Apostle stands as a testament to just that.

If you’re a fan of the director’s previous works, you’d be sure to anticipate the trail of blood and organs he leaves progressively in every film. Apostle is yet another chapter in which the director has attempted to show how else a body can be taken apart and mutilated. Unnerving and brutal at its best, the film is gory and for the weak-stomach, it can be nauseating. The film touches on themes of power, religion, sin, freedom, cults and faith and it is very ambitious in its approach to explore all of them. Apostle takes it time to introduce the characters as well as the story where the first half of the story plays out like a mystery. The second half becomes an intense roller-coaster where the audience are then splattered and slaughtered with the true horror. There are sudden shifts in tone that seem very choppy and you’re not given enough time to digest what just took place before you’re hit with the next intense scene.

Apostle has a ruthless storyline and has a masterful way of narrating its story. It is very transparent and wants you to understand that there is something around the corner that will scream at you in time to come. There is mastery in its execution, but the extremities of the content as well as the jerkiness in the tone might be off-putting to some.

-A Just Stream Editorial by Siddharthen R (@cheeeekyponnama)
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