I know I've famously been a little antagonistic regarding Netflix and their original cinematic content recently. For some reason, when it comes to their horror department, they are certainly making the most of it. Both "1922" and "Gerald's Game" were two of the best Stephen King adaptations in really long time. I just finished the first season of "The Haunting of Hill House" and I enjoyed it every step of the way, it was a spooky good time. "The Ritual" is a movie that should have been reserved for the theater, because it would have made somebody somewhere rich. I plan to write about "Hold The Dark" very soon, but that movie is so wonderfully strange that I am having a hard time getting my hands around. In the best possible way, I assure you.
Now we've recently been blessed with "Apostle." I am not sure if I would call it the best Netflix original horror film. But it certainly will come close. I haven't considered ranking these movies yet, but if I did, "Apostle" would rank fairly high. It is my favorite kind of horror film. You won't find any found footage cameras anywhere here. You won't find any teenagers you can't act. While there are some torture scenes, they are specifically designed to haunt and disturb you. To push the limits of what you can handle as a horror fan. They aren't trying to kill people in ridiculous ways, because for some, for whatever reason, huge amounts of blood is somehow scary. I recently watched "Jigsaw" for the first time a couple weeks ago, and while the "Saw" tradition is still alive and well, it wasn't that great of a tradition in the first place.
"Apostle" stars Micheal Sheen as a cult leader. If the temperature didn't immediately go down in your own home after reading that sentence, then you probably weren't a horror fan to begin with. I've written before on this blog about my phobia of cults. Any horror film involving a cult is enough to send me over the edge. Hell, movies about cults that aren't intended to be scary send me over the edge. Add an actor like Micheal Sheen and I might as well not sleep for the next three weeks. You better believe he's awesome too.
Let's back up a little bit. I am talking sporadically and all over the place. The film is set in 1905. Thomas (Dan Stevens) travels to a mysterious, remote Welsh island to rescue his sister. His beloved sister was kidnapped by the cult Micheal Sheen's character leads. Thomas has a dark past involving religion and he's not a devout follower by any stretch of the imagination. Micheal Sheen's character is named Malcolm. He was shipwrecked on the island with two of his first followers and he stayed alive by apparently appeasing to the island's goddess. Malcolm has got the villagers refusing to not pay the king taxes. He sacrifices animals to the island goddess for food. But like many cult leaders, he's a fraud and his crops are failing. He plans to ransom Thomas' sister for money and food and Thomas plans to stop him.
What could have been a sweet revenge story ends up being a remarkable horror movie too. There is a scene in particular that literally forced a verbal reaction out of me. I rarely jump at boo scares, but a scare so deep that it ignites a little yelp is even more rare. There is some freaky, freaky material in this movie and I love how cold the movie plays. This is the type of horror movie I like. Mood and atmosphere reign supreme. The cinematography of the film suggests a very stark and grim tale on the horizon and it is absolutely correct.
Dan Stevens is heating up at this point to be a major star. I was on board when I caught him in the film "The Guest." I wasn't alone too. He was hired to play The Beast in last years' "Beauty and The Beast" for a reason. Pretty soon he's going to be a household name. He's very charismatic and here he does a splendid job as Thomas. He fits right into this scary world, entering the island to find his sister like walking through the mouth of Hell. He's really good.
Gareth Evans wrote and directed this film. He was the guy behind both "Raid" movies, which are a couple of wicked Indonesian martial arts films. He directed the segment "Safe Haven" in "V/H/S 2," which is one of the craziest and creepy segments in the history of that franchise. Evans is on the rise, a grand new voice in filmmaking and I think we are just beginning to see him flex his muscles.
FINAL GRADE: A