Apos­tle I The Raid di­rec­tor gets Bi­b­li­cal with his Net­flix shocker…

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Back in 2014, Gareth Evans was rid­ing high on crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess, hav­ing re­leased his genre-defin­ing ac­tion epic The Raid 2 to uni­ver­sal ac­claim. Then, sud­denly, ev­ery­thing seemed to go quiet. “I was de­vel­op­ing some­thing that was go­ing to be my first US project,” re­flects the Welsh di­rec­tor. “It just didn’t come to­gether. I was start­ing over from scratch.”

Mov­ing back to Wales, Evans made good use of this hia­tus by work­ing on up­com­ing Sky se­ries Gangs Of Lon­don and dust­ing off an old idea about the search for a miss­ing sib­ling. It was a con­cept he had ex­plored pre­vi­ously as a short, film­ing week­ends at his nan’s house be­fore he broke big with In­done­sian fight flicks. This time, how­ever, Evans added Bri­tish folk hor­ror into the mix.

“I was watch­ing things like Ken Rus­sell’s The Dev­ils, The Wicker Man and Witchfinder Gen­eral, just try­ing to fig­ure out what I wanted to do,” Evans ex­plains. These dark ma­te­ri­als proved rich in­spi­ra­tion and the re­sult was

Apos­tle, which drops on Net­flix this Oc­to­ber, just in time for Hal­loween. Set on a Welsh is­land, it stars Dan Stevens as a lau­danum-ad­dicted preacher search­ing for his sis­ter, who has fallen into the clutches of Michael Sheen’s sin­is­ter cult leader, Prophet Mal­colm.

Cast­ing the Down­ton Abbey star proved a for­tu­itous win for the di­rec­tor. The pair had pre­vi­ously met years ear­lier at Sun­dance when Stevens was pro­mot­ing Adam Win­gard hor­ror The Guest, and Evans had sub­se­quently courted him for his US fea­ture be­fore it fell through. So when cir­cum­stances fi­nally aligned for Apos­tle, the pair seized the chance to work to­gether. “Dan’s so ef­fort­lessly charis­matic and in­cred­i­bly charm­ing,” smiles Evans. “He brought an abil­ity to have fun with the char­ac­ter even though it’s a very dark film.”

And very dark sounds about right. Cit­ing scenes of hu­man im­mo­la­tion in Witchfinder and Wicker Man as muses, Evans prom­ises his film will have mo­ments that are equally gru­elling: not sur­pris­ing per­haps, given the palm­sweat­ing in­ten­sity of his pre­vi­ous films. Nev­er­the­less, when he warns “we have some­thing I think is go­ing to leave a mark”, it sounds dis­tinctly threat­en­ing.

Not that this is sim­ple sur­face shocks. With Stevens and Sheen play­ing di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed holy men, Evans has set his sights on lofty tar­gets. “It’s a theme that runs as an un­der­cur­rent – man’s abil­ity to cor­rupt re­li­gion in or­der to fur­ther their po­lit­i­cal agenda,” con­firms the di­rec­tor.

Whether au­di­ences choose to see such top­i­cal sub­texts, or sim­ply strap in for full-throt­tle frights, one thing’s sure: we’re in for a hell of a ride.


holy wAr Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen play a preacher and cult leader with two very dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to God.

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