Director Gareth Evans, celebrated for his high-octane action films Raid and its sequel, proves that he can also master the horror genre. Though primarily known for crafting relentless battles and intense shootouts, Evans previously dabbled in horror with the short story Safe Haven in the anthology V/H/S 2. Now, he dives back into the genre with the feature-length Apostle, starring Dan Stevens. In the film, Stevens embarks on a mission to find his kidnapped sister on an island led by a charismatic preacher played by Michael Sheen. Brace yourself; it gets ugly.
I’m pleased to report that Evans did not disappoint in his first feature-length horror film. While it might not be the traditional horror experience that you expect, it’s a compelling work nonetheless. Instead of relying on jump scares, the director intentionally avoids this oft-overused tactic in favor of creating an eerie atmosphere that slowly gets under your skin.
At 130 minutes, Apostle might test your patience, especially if you’re anticipating a traditionally conceived horror film. However, if you can settle into its unhurried pace, you’ll be rewarded with an intense final act featuring forty-five minutes of gruesome happenings. Having previously demonstrated his comfort with violence in the Raid series, Evans here employs it judiciously, making Apostle an unsettling viewing experience, especially for the squeamish.
A Closer Look at Apostle
Despite its disturbing elements, Apostle isn’t your typical horror film. Rather, it’s a gritty drama that examines the life of an unconventional community on the brink of chaos. In a straightforward setup, Dan Stevens is the likable protagonist while Michael Sheen plays the compelling antagonist, surrounded by a slew of other characters with varying motivations. However, under the stress of their isolated existence, these individuals reveal their darker sides, threatening to tear the community apart. Evans’s storytelling approach is bold; it delves into the malevolence lurking within human nature, which can manifest unexpectedly with fatal consequences.
Apostle won’t necessarily please die-hard horror fans due to its unconventional approach to the genre. However, regardless of your stylistic preferences, the film showcases Evans as a more versatile, confident, and capable filmmaker than one might have assumed. Not only does he offer a nuanced take on a challenging subject, but he also excels in aspects like cinematography and actor direction. Overall, Apostle reminded me of S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk in its complexity, unpredictability, and unapologetic grit, even though it may be a bit more accessible to general audiences.
Apostle might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it clearly shows that Gareth Evans has more to offer than we might have anticipated a few years ago.
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