|Directed by||Gareth Evans|
|Written by||Gareth Evans|
|Edited by||Gareth Evans|
Apostle is a 2018 British-American period horror film written and directed by Gareth Evans and starring Dan Stevens, Lucy Boynton, Mark Lewis Jones, Bill Milner, Kristine Froseth, Paul Higgins, and Michael Sheen. It had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest in September 2018. The film began streaming on Netflix on October 12, 2018. It has received positive reviews from critics for its visuals, cinematography, performances, and unique blend of horror genres.
In 1905, Thomas Richardson travels to a remote Welsh island to rescue his sister, Jennifer, who has been kidnapped and held for ransom by a mysterious cult. Flashbacks throughout the film reveal Thomas is a former Christian missionary who was persecuted in Peking during the Boxer Rebellion for introducing Christianity to China.
Posing as a convert to the cult, Thomas arrives and encounters the leader, Malcolm Howe, who founded the cult with two other convicts, Frank and Quinn. They claim that the previously barren island was rendered fertile through blood sacrifice. Each member of the cult keeps a jar for regular bloodletting. Thomas also discovers teenagers Jeremy and Ffion – son of Frank and daughter of Quinn, respectively – sneaking home after a tryst. He forces Jeremy to admit that Jennifer, who Malcolm is presenting to cult members as a captured spy, was kidnapped for ransom as the cult does not have the resources to pay for the continuous animal sacrifices needed to maintain the island’s fertility.
Malcolm suspects an infiltrator among the newcomers and questions them. One of the men attempts to assassinate Malcolm, but Thomas intervenes and is badly wounded during the ordeal. Malcolm promptly has him treated and promises that his loyalty will be rewarded. The same night, Malcolm parades Jennifer through the village, claiming she is a traitor and will be killed if her co-conspirator does not come forward. Thomas accesses a tunnel underneath Malcolm's house and flees from what appears to be an old woman who chases him. He escapes to a beach cave covered in markings, indicating the presence of a deity on the island. Malcolm visits a barn where the old woman who is, in fact, the island's deity, is imprisoned in tree roots; he reprimands her for appearing to Thomas before feeding her his blood, causing the vegetation imprisoning her to bloom.
Ffion and Jeremy meet in her home, where she reveals that she is pregnant and the pair decide to elope. Jeremy briefly leaves and returns to find that Quinn has discovered their plan and murdered Ffion in a rage. Quinn frames Jeremy for the killing and uses a "purification" ritual to torture and murder him with a hand crank in front of the islanders, traumatizing Thomas and Andrea, Malcolm's daughter. When Malcolm and Frank return and challenge him, Quinn declares that Malcolm is a false prophet and demands that he prove himself by killing Thomas. Frank, enraged by the death of his son, attacks Quinn, allowing Thomas to escape.
Frank and Thomas flee through the forest and eventually arrive at the barn where The Goddess is being held. Frank enters and is killed by a masked figure, The Grinder, who Thomas witnesses force-feeding Frank's blood to The Goddess. Sneaking past The Grinder, he finds his sister alive but strung up in a sack. As he releases her, he is knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he finds himself tethered to a meat grinding table by hooks embedded into his hands and legs. Thomas escapes and kills The Grinder but not before the device mangles his hand.
Quinn reveals to a captive Jennifer and Andrea that he imprisoned The Goddess after he and Malcolm realized her powers. He tells the women that he will repeatedly impregnate them and use their offspring as blood sacrifices. Meanwhile, The Goddess begs Thomas to set her free – he grants her wish by immolating her. The rest of the village catches fire and the villagers begin to flee to boats. Thomas tracks down Quinn and his captives. The three of them eventually overpower and kill Quinn, but not before Thomas sustains several stab wounds. He collapses, bidding Jennifer and Andrea farewell as they escape by boat, also asking them to pray for him. His faith restored, Thomas is discovered by an injured Malcolm as his blood replenishes the land, the vegetation consuming him.
- Dan Stevens as Thomas Richardson
- Michael Sheen as Malcolm Howe
- Mark Lewis Jones as Quinn
- Paul Higgins as Frank
- Lucy Boynton as Andrea Howe, Malcolm’s daughter
- Bill Milner as Jeremy, Frank's son and Ffion's lover
- Kristine Froseth as Ffion, Quinn’s daughter and Jeremy's lover
- Elen Rhys as Jennifer Richardson, Thomas' sister
- Sharon Morgan as Her, the cult's goddess
- Sebastian McCheyne as The Grinder, a bloodied humanoid creature and keeper of Her
On 2 November 2016, it was announced that Gareth Evans was working on a new project that he would write and direct. Dan Stevens was confirmed to be cast in the lead role. In March 2017, the film was picked up by Netflix. Later that month, it was announced that Michael Sheen, Lucy Boynton, Bill Milner and Kristine Froseth had joined the cast. Filming started in April 2017. The film was largely shot on a set built at Margam Park in Neath Port Talbot, Wales.
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On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 80%, based on 54 reviews, with an average rating of 6.7/10. The site's consensus reads, "Apostle resists easy scares in favor of a steady, slow-building descent into dread led by a commanding central performance from Dan Stevens." Metacritic reports a score of 62 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Variety, echoing other reviews, referred to the film as an homage to The Wicker Man. The Hollywood Reporter stated that "while climactic battles are violent, they never really thrill," concluding that "fans of The Raid [Evans' previous film series] should look elsewhere for their thrills." Collider and The A.V. Club gave Apostle more favorable reviews with a B and B minus respectively.
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- Rife, Katie (11 October 2018). "The director of The Raid doesn't tone things down one bit for the gory folk-horror of Apostle". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 22 October 2018.