With Halloween still on people’s minds, the time for horror movies is nigh. With Halloween back in cinemas, it is safe to say that people are craving a new way to scare themselves senseless. However, over the years, it can be said that people want to be less scared and more…disturbed. Netflix’s latest release, Apostle, has the potential to happily fit into both of these categories – but does it succeed?
Apostle follows Thomas (Dan Stevens) as he ventures to a mysterious island, overtaken by a cult, in order to find his kidnapped sister. The cult, run by Prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen), relies on the protection of the Goddess of the Island for the people to prosper. As we soon find out, the protection of this goddess is a lot gorier than expected.
Sounds like a fairly good starting point, right? This movie ricochets through scary, immediately to disturbing, right through to just plain weird. It’s a celebration of all things horror, whilst still making the audience look away from their screens as much as possible.
Dan Stevens plays the brooding and confused Thomas very well. He progresses from puzzled man to part of the island (literally), all the while staring at people with his scarily blue eyes. This adds to the fear factor, in my opinion: his stare becomes more and more unnerving throughout the movie, almost detracting from the actual scary parts.
It’s not often that horror movies are successfully disturbing. Apostle, however, takes gore to a new level – there is one scene involving a manual drill that is particularly awful. It’s one of those movies that doesn’t have a lot going on, but suddenly has everything going on in a split second.
The goriness of this movie is something to be admired. Certain scenes rival the lift scene in The Shining, leaking blood and gore as though there is a someone squeezing jam through holes in the film. It’s not just bloody though – it’s graphic. You actually watch someone lose three of their fingers in a mincer, and then watch them pull their bloodied stump out in agony and triumph. It’s definitely not for the fainthearted, but it doesn’t half pay off for those who love horror.
However, the scariest things of all, are the leaders of the cult. Martin Sheen as Prophet Malcolm is a relatively inoffensive fellow – until we see the trap door in his floor. From then on, there is something noticeably not right about Malcolm. He’s shady and secretive, but there is an aspect to his character that doesn’t quite have an explanation. All it can be described as is a feeling of unease for whoever is watching.
His brother, Quinn (Mark Lewis Jones) is a more traditional type of psycho. He’s the brawn of the leadership, and he has no qualms with using it throughout the movie to establish dominance. After many fights (which he tends to win), being horrible to his daughter and just being a horrible person in general, it’s not hard to see how this man becomes one of the main antagonists in the film.
Despite how good this movie does as far as disturbing the audience goes, the storytelling is slightly lacklustre. It’s confusing in places, which doesn’t bode well with such a complicated plot, and not everything is explained. It’s understandable when the main point of this movie is to cultivate mystery, but there is a certain point where the audience needs to know what is actually going on.
The mystery then makes it hard for the story to actually go anywhere. It becomes predictable and overplays on a lot of horror movie tropes towards the end, which makes it seem a little bit lazy. Overall, it is well written – it’s just a bit watery towards the end.
Horror movies are a hard genre to perfect. They need to be scary without being silly, well-written without being predictable and have dramatic acting, but not to the point of caricature. Apostle tries so hard to be the perfect horror movie – it has all of the aspects that are expected of it, and more – it just comes across as slightly too much.
If you’re looking for a horror to welcome in the spooky season, this is your best bet. If you’re squeamish, maybe not so much.