Simple Review: Worth following to the end
To a horror movie fan, Netflix is the gift that keeps on giving. Now, I am not saying every gift it delivers is precious, some are not even worth re-gifting and most fall somewhere in between. With Apostle, Netflix delivers an ambitious horror movie that takes its time to go for your throat, but when it does it is all kinds of crazy. Does this journey to a terrifying cult deliver much-needed Halloween scares? The only way to find out is to grab a cup of the funny kool-aid and enjoy this zealots review.
Apostle is set in the early 1900’s and revolves around Thomas as he travels to a remote island to rescue his sister from a cult with a powerful leader, Prophet Malcolm. The island and the cult are hiding dark secrets that Thomas may regret exposing. Apostle is directed by Gareth Evans of The Raid fame, and he holds back on his normal high energy action to let this movie slow burn its way to the kinetic final act. Overall, I enjoyed the movie, but it isn’t without its flaws. There are scares to be had, and blood to be spilled, but the build-up can be frustrating at times, and that is what keeps this from being a better movie. Now, now you know you have to wait on the negative stuff, silly, we have to look at the positives before we can scratch that negative itch.
I have to start my positive rants with the performance that I could not get enough, and that was Michael Sheen, as the Prophet Malcolm. I am a fan of Sheen and he is exceptional in this movie. He is barely recognizable behind a salt and pepper beard, but those wild, expressive eyes convey the danger and charisma you would expect from the leader of a cult. Malcolm battles with trying to keep the cult together without doing things he knows he must do to survive on the remote island. Sheen gives Malcolm enough humanity to make you feel for his struggles as the cult begins to fall apart. It is clearly the best performance in the movie, as the rest of the cast simply fills their roles. Dan Stevens, as Thomas, does a good job with what he has to work with, giving Thomas the right amount of determination to find his sister on this insane island. other than that, no one really stands out they are just there to either help Thomas or try to kill him.
I loved the isolation of the cult island and the mysteries that it holds. I do not want to give much away, but there is a supernatural element to the island that is genuinely creepy and, frankly, disturbing as it takes time to figure out what exactly is going on with that creature. Evans uses that element just enough early on in the movie to keep your interest to see what the hell is going on with that weird looking nightmare. When all is revealed it goes from creepy to straight out terror as Thomas is forced to confront this evil. I had a ton of fun with those parts of the movie as Evans delivers the right amount of shock and gore to satisfy my inner horror fan. All of the violence and horror elements are handled with the ease you would expect from the director of two Raid movies, and he doesn’t shy away from either when all hell breaks loose at the end.
Fortunately for Apostle the ending is just the right amount of insane, violent and scary that it rewards the viewers for their patience through the first 2/3 of the film. Evans has the cult unravel, a violent torture scene, Thomas confronting the evil entity to save his sister and a violent overthrow of power going on all at once. The tension is amped up to eleven and I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting to see who would survive and who would meet their maker. I will warn you, that torture scene is brutal, as is the violence throughout the movie. Evans gives fight scenes a very real feel, and stabbings and slices are harsh and unrelenting. There were times even I looked away! ( Please don’t be harsh with your judgment of me, I am only human after all). This movie doesn’t hold back when it decides to cut loose.
Despite the excellent ending, Apostle does have its flaws, and they are rather easy to find. As I stated earlier, this is a slow building movie and while I do enjoy a horror movie that works its way to the scares rather than jump scares you a million times, this movie tends to linger longer on the build-up than it needs to. There are little moments that maintain interest, but it is a test at times to keep watching. The problem comes with the fact that we do not see much of a character arch with Thomas through all of that setup. He is there to find his sister and that is pretty much it. He has a drug issue at the beginning, but that is abandoned early on in the movie which robs us of any personal struggle that he has to fight through to maintain his mission. We do learn a little about his past, but nothing that alters our view of his character or his struggle. Evans could have removed twenty minutes of this movie and it would not have lost anything in the process.
I would have enjoyed more backstory on the cult as well. Through flashbacks, the beginnings of the cult’s leaders relationship with the inhabitant of the island are established, but I would have liked to have learned more about the dynamic of the leaders as well as the reasons for the change of loyalties at the end. Despite the long set up, it still feels rushed when characters turn on one another, or suddenly decide to leave. It was odd watching a movie for over two hours and still feeling like things were not explained enough or plot points were rushed through.
The end of this sermon is nigh my devoted followers and as promised I have delivered you to the promised land of movie reviews. Apostle is a nice change of pace horror movie and if you can make it through the long set up, you will be rewarded with an ending you will not soon forget. Now go my devoted reader and like, comment and follow this blog and be rewarded for your loyalty!
As always, thanks for your time!
The Movie Psycho