M.L. Miller here! Because you and I love the horror so much, I’ve decided to post a “Worth Noting” pick along with each of my Horror Countdown choices each day through October. The same rules apply. The film must have been released before September 30th, 2019 to the masses (no festival picks). This means that is available to view in theaters, On Demand, DVD/BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films.
How did I compile this list? Horror is such a broad and varied genre that sometimes, while these choices may not represent the best—something about the film is worth taking notice. Some of these films have similar themes to their counterparts in the main countdown. Some just missed the countdown by an inch or two. Others were just squozed in because there’s nothing like them out there. Others because they have been made available for the first time. One way or another, it’s more horror to enjoy!
I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Worth Noting – APOSTLE!
I wanted to like APOSTLE more than I did. I couldn’t help but feel I was watching THE WICKER MAN all over again. And while that is a tale that has been told many times, usually there is some kind of difference to make the homage feel somewhat distinct. That didn’t happen in APOSTLE for me. Still, it is a very capable film with a lot going for it. It just didn’t have the pizzazz to make it onto my top 31. Released in October of last year, here is my review of APOSTLE. Available on Netflix!
Directed by Gareth Evans
Written by Gareth Evans
Starring Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, Lucy Boynton, Elen Rhys, Sharon Morgan, Sebastian McCheyne, Richard Elfyn, Paul Higgins, Bill Milner, Catrin Aaron, John Weldon, Ross O’Hennessy, Ioan Hefin, Rhian Morgan, Kristine Froseth, Mark Lewis Jones, Owain Gwynn, Gareth John Bale, Fergus Dignam, Annes Elwy
APOSTLE was extremely frustrating for me to sit through. Director Gareth Evans has delivered some of the most electric cinematic moments I’ve seen in years—THE RAID 2, for god sakes, jackhammers you from beginning to end. You get the same effect from the “Safe Haven” segment in V/H/S/2, which is a harrowing nosedive into the blackest hell. So imagine my surprise when APOSTLE comes along. It’s slowly paced and capably directed and acted, yet it lacks that zing that we got other works from Evans.
LEGION’s Dan Stevens plays Thomas Richardson, a man who craftily finds a way to get onto a secluded island run by a religious sect. Thomas is trying to find his lost sister, who is rumored to have joined this cult, led by the charismatic Malcom Howe (Michael Sheen). As Thomas makes his way deeper into the inner workings of the cult, he finds his chances of getting off the island in one piece become lesser by the day.
Save some truly gnarly moments of torture and some uncanny scenes of witchcraft and sorcery in the latter half of the film, APOSTLE is the calmest and less frenetic film Evans has associated his name to. I don’t know if he is trying to experiment with a new style, but this film contradicts with everything you’ve seen from the director before. Things pick up the pace in the latter half and I guess a non-stop chase and splatter sequence is too much to ask for in a film of this size, but the main problem with APOSTLE is that it becomes utterly predictable as it moves forward. Anyone who has seen THE WICKER MAN or Cage’s remake autrocity or Ben Wheatley’s KILL LIST or even any Italian cannibal film from the seventies knows how this is all going to play out. Hell, MIDSOMMAR follows the same path, but even that film, as problematic as it is, attempts to add some true depth and emotion to the story to distract you from the familiar path. While the setting might be different from THE WICKER MAN, the outsider makes his way into a strange culture just feels stale.
Dan Stevens is always strong and attempts to carry this film despite the familiar script. Michael Sheen is always a powerful actor to watch and really sizzles as the leader of the cult. The parts with the witch and her maze-like lair is fun, but really feels out of place given the focus on the religious aspect for most of the film. The witch sequence almost feels like an afterthought, as if they needed something to punch things up visually, since everything is so brown and bland for most of the film. Still, these moments of horror, while well realized, feel few and far between here.
So, yeah. I recognize the story of a stranger in a strange land is a common story, but if you’re going to do it, find a fresh way to present it. Not enough of APOSTLE worked for me. The best bits felt out of place. They are potent beats of horror—moments that sealed this film on my list somewhere. And it is made with a deft hand. I just feel like everyone lacked energy, especially the director, as if they themselves were sick of retelling the same old story again.
WORTH NOTING SO FAR…
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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