Apostle is a horror film now streaming on Netflix. Directed by Gareth Evans, the film stars the great Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) as the fire and brimstone prophet and religious cult leader, Malcolm. Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, Beauty & The Beast) plays Thomas Richardson, a former Christian missionary turned possible drug addict. He receives a letter from his sister Jennifer, saying she’s being held for ransom by Malcolm’s evil cult circa 1900, so it’s a period film.
The beginning is very atmospheric, with Thomas scheming his way to the secluded Welsh island where the cult resides. The music score by Fajar Yusekemal and Aria Prayogi is very moody and almost a little industrial, but it makes a huge impact in terms of tension building. It reminded me a little, at first, of Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and it’s incredible score by Jonny Greenwood. As Thomas cases the cult grounds in search of his sister, he witnesses grotesque blood sacrifices and a creepy Goddess tree lady that seems to be responsible for the cult’s prosperity.
While Stevens’ and Sheen’s performances carry the film, the plot essentially peters out after the first 45 minutes. It splinters once Thomas is on the island and lacks the tightness I would’ve hoped for, especially given subject matter from cults, ritual worship, kidnapping, and supernatural deities. There’s also a sub plot including a forbidden romance between two of the cult founders’ children that really doesn’t serve the whole narrative all that much, other than positioning Sheen’s character Malcolm to become somewhat redeemable?
Honestly, I really wanted Malcolm to be extremely evil or to have a bigger revelation. I also wanted Malcolm and Thomas to interact more. I found myself increasingly checked out of the film in spite of the interesting visual effects. I was disappointed for sure, especially considering how strong the cast was, but I still think it’s worth a watch for their individual performances, the music, and visuals. The plot just didn’t hold together for me. Netflix can’t always nail it as they did with The Haunting of Hill House. For that reason, I’d give it a B-.
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