Netflix just dropped the poster for Gareth Evans’ Apostle, and it’s very evocative. It features a man with what appears to be tree limbs coming out of his back, towering over a burning church. Eerie hands rise up from the ground (or is it from hell?) and tiny little people are impaled on the man’s back. Oh, and just for good measure, we have the upside down cross as the “t” in Apostle; in case there was any confusion that this story will deal with religious themes.
Apostle is Gareth Evans’ first foray back into directing since The Raid 2. He has dabbled in horror before, though. He directed the “Safe Haven” segment in V/H/S/2 which focused on a news crew infiltrating an Indonesian cult to film a documentary and discovering a horrific reality. Thematically, it seems Apostle will be more like “Safe Haven” than the Raid films.
Apostle is set in London, 1905. Prodigal son Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) has returned home, only to learn that his sister is being held for ransom by a religious cult. Determined to get her back at any cost, Thomas travels to the idyllic island where the cult lives under the leadership of the charismatic Prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen). As Thomas infiltrates the island’s community, he learns that the corruption of mainland society that they claim to reject has infested the cult’s ranks nonetheless – and uncovers a secret far more evil than he could have imagined. Apostle is a harrowing occult fable, where the only thing more horrifying than madness is the sinister reality behind it.
I’m getting shades of Wicker Man, meets Spotlight based on that synopsis. My first instinct is to think that the “corruption of mainland society” that leads to the evil secret involves the horrific (and very real) child abuse that was rampant throughout the Catholic Church. And of course, if there’s a creepy cult on an island, you definitely think of Wicker Man – whether it be the original or the Nicholas Cage version is up to you. Let’s hope that Dan Stevens can avoid bees and creepy fertility cults, and get down to kicking some ass like he did in the Guest (hopefully less menacingly, since he appears to be the hero of Apostle.)
Cults definitely seem to be having a “moment” right now. The recent real world takedown of the NXIVM cult may have ignited interest in this topic, although true crime junkies would say the interest in cults has never died down since the Manson murders back in 1969. We have Drew Goddard’s upcoming Bad Times at the El Royale featuring culty Chris Hemsworth, and Ari Aster’s follow-up to Hereditary will also tackle Pagan cults.
Personally I’m excited for it, but hopefully you don’t have cult fatigue by the time Apostle hits Netflix on October 12th. If you’re lucky, you may be able to catch the premiere at Fantastic Fest in September. If you are like the rest of us plebes, it’s just another reason to look forward to October’s arrival.