Apostle I The Raid director gets Biblical with his Netflix shocker…
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.
ETA | 12 OCTOBER / APOSTLE OPENS NEXT MONTH.
holy wAr Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen play a preacher and cult leader with two very different approaches to God.