Cult horror films often revel in the abundance of violence, gore, bloodshed and nudity. In the recent past, very few cult horror flicks have had the perfect balance of all these elements. In 2018, a gruesome British folk-horror film based on a scary cult hit the theatres that scared viewers and had the capacity of turning one’s stomach.
Titled Apostle, this period horror film is the result of Gareth Evans’ creative genius. It stars Michael Sheen, Dan Stevens, Lucy Boynton, Bill Milner, Paul Higgins and others in prominent roles.
Stevens, who is known for his roles in Downton Abbey and Beauty and the Beast, was seen as the lead protagonist, who is compelled to embark on a daunting quest to an isolated Welsh island to rescue his sister who has been held captive by a mysterious cult.
The inhabitants of the islands are mostly followers of the “old ways”. They are cut off from medical facilities or any ounce of modernity and rely on their agrarian lifestyle and livestock while worshipping a mysterious goddess.
Soon Stevens’ Thomas Richardson understands that the island is strange and bizarre in umpteen ways. The people on the island are blissfully ignorant of the atrocities meted out to them in form of disappearing people who are later sacrificed. While some want to break out of this sinister chain, they are bound by duty and blood.
The slow-burn psychological horror within the film heightens the ominous atmosphere and the sprinkle of bloodshed and gore makes it even more terrifying. The film abounds in various forms of medieval torture. From slitting one’s throat in cold blood to driving a stake through their body, from drilling their brains out to annihilating the torso, the film has more gore than Game of Thrones.
Like most other cult flicks, it upholds the tension between nature and modernity, topping it off with a blast of supernatural horror and religious fanatics whose belief in the fantastical and inherently evil island goddess is eerily gratifying. The island is a supposed utopia where the people are provided for; in turn, they stay oblivious to the sacrifices being made to appease the goddess.
A scathing commentary on fear, human morality, selfishness and modernity, the copious amounts of blood and gore make the film pretty difficult to sit through. While it is as unsettling as Robert Eggers’ The Witch, Evans successfully manages to make the miracles in the film as agonising and nightmarish as possible.
Watch Apostle on Netflix now if you do not mind gratuitous violence and gore.