Apostle is a 2018 gothic horror film written, directed and edited 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, and began streaming on Netflix on October 12, 2018. The story follows a British man as he attempts to rescue his sister from a cult on a remote island. The film received generally positive reviews from critics.
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. Posing as a convert, Thomas encounters the leader, Malcolm Howe, who founded the cult with two other convicts, Frank and Quinn. They claim that the barren island was rendered fertile through blood sacrifice. Thomas discovers Frank's son Jeremy and Quinn's daughter Ffion sneaking home after a tryst. He forces Jeremy to admit that Jennifer 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.
One of the newcomers attempts to assassinate Malcolm, but Thomas intervenes and is wounded. The same night, Malcolm parades Jennifer through the village, claiming she will be killed if her co-conspirator does not come forward. Thomas flees from an old woman who chases him, and escapes to a beach cave covered in markings, depicting a deity. 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. Thomas tells Malcolm's daughter Andrea that he was a Christian missionary who was persecuted in Peking during the Boxer Rebellion for introducing Christianity to China, and lost his faith after his god failed to intervene. She takes him to a shack in a wheat field to hide.
Ffion reveals to Jeremy that she is pregnant, and the pair make plans to elope. Infuriated, Quinn mutilates Ffion in a forced abortion. Jeremy stabs Quinn, who frames Jeremy for Ffion's murder, and uses a "purification" ritual to publicly murder him by hollowing out the back of his head. Quinn calls Malcolm a false prophet and demands that he prove himself by executing Thomas. Frank, enraged by the death of his son, attacks Quinn, enabling Thomas to escape.
Frank and Thomas flee and arrive at the barn where The Goddess is being held. Frank enters, intent on killing The Goddess, but is killed by a masked figure, The Grinder, whom Thomas witnesses force-feeding Jeremy’s body to The Goddess. Sneaking past, he finds Jennifer alive but strung up in a sack. As he releases her, he is knocked unconscious by the Grinder. He finds himself tethered to a meat-grinding table by hooks embedded into his hands and legs. He escapes and kills The Grinder.
Quinn reveals to a captive Jennifer and Andrea that he imprisoned The Goddess after he and Malcolm realized her powers and that he plans to repeatedly impregnate them and use their offspring as blood sacrifices. The Goddess shows Thomas her history with the cult, and begs him to set her free; he grants her wish by unexpectedly immolating her. The village also catches fire while villagers flee to boats. Thomas, Andrea, and Jennifer overpower and kill Quinn, with Thomas sustaining heavy stab wounds. He escorts Jennifer and Andrea to the boats before he collapses, bidding Jennifer and Andrea farewell as they escape. His faith now restored, Thomas is discovered by an injured Malcolm. As he bleeds onto the ground, the vegetation around him grows and infuse within his body. His eyes then turn the same shape and color as the goddess's, signifying his rebirth as the new guardian of the island.
On November 2, 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.
The film premiered at Fantastic Fest in September 2018. It began streaming on Netflix on October 12, 2018.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 79%, based on 73 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 19 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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