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John’s Horror Corner: Apostle (2018), an inspired “folk horror” Netflix original about a remote pagan cult.

October 29, 2018

MY CALL: An inspired horror film worth any adventurous film-goers’ time, but boasting the sort of bonkers ending that didn’t really work for me (more in that it didn’t fit the film, in my opinion). However, for the very same reason it may just be the change of pace you’re seeking. MOVIES LIKE Apostle: For more recent folk horror try The Ritual (2017; podcast discussion), The Witch (2016; podcast discussion), The Village (2004), The Shrine (2010), or Salem (2014-2017). For more Netflix Original horror, try Gerald’s Game (2017) or The Babysitter (2017; podcast discussion). And if you seek interesting cult movies, consider The Sacrament (2014), Sound of My Voice (2012), Faults (2014) or The Endless (2017).

Sent overseas to recover his kidnapped sister in Finland(ia?), Thomas (Dan Stevens; The Guest, Legion) assumes his way onto the island of a questionable religious leader, his zealots and his promises of extreme God-fearing serenity. In less than a day Thomas witnesses unusual domestic bloodletting habits, hints of something possibly supernatural, and generally highly suspicious goings on. The year is 1905, but it may as well be 1605 with the cult’s almost viciously medieval law.

Tending to his “Goddess”-fearing flock, the Prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen; Underworld 1-3) is a humble cult leader down to the typical blunt tropes but performed with a rich sharpness. Unusual circumstances find Thomas quite close to the prophet… for better or worse.

A few scenes mildly harken The Descent (2005) and even The Last Witch Hunter (2015) in flavor. But make no mistake, this film written and directed by Gareth Evans (The Raid 1-2, Merantau, V/H/S 2 – Safe Haven) resembles nothing I’ve seen before. And that is its greatest strength, followed by the excellently creepy atmosphere and outstanding performances by Stevens and Sheen. The entire cast served the premise and its dark tone very well.

I’d say the first act was positively outstanding, the middle act was very engaging, and the third act fell apart (for me). It was as if this film as trying to be too many different things. Admittedly, that’s exactly what The Ritual (2017) did—and I loved it for that. This just wasn’t my flavor for some reason.

The special effects were limited to the revelations in the third act and a rather gruesome sort of death-by-torture scene that functioned as a catalyst to the dire mentality of this cult. In terms of gore and other effects, the film had all it needed or even perhaps too much—even if not a lot. This is one of those films that facilitates the wandering fears of its viewers. I kind of wish I never found out what (or why) they worshipped; leaving it to the darkness of my own imagination.

Not gonna lie—this film gets a bit deeper into crazytown than I’d prefer. And while I enjoy a good bit of crazy, I’d have enjoyed a more subtle conclusion for this particular story’s cultivation (i.e., the first 60 minutes). But that’s just me; you may like it. In fact, a few very trusted friends of mine (in terms of providing excellent horror recommendations) were big fans. So take my words with a grain of salt.

Overall, however, I thought this was an inspired horror film worth any adventurous film-goers’ time.

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