With Apos­tle, can The Raid’s Gareth Evans do for hor­ror what he did for mar­tial arts?

Empire (Australasia) - - CONTENTS - SI­MON CROOK

Gareth Evans’ first film since The Raid 2 is as light­hearted and fam­i­lyfriendly as you’d ex­pect. So not very.

FOUR YEARS. THAT’S how long it’s been since The Raid 2 thun­dered onto screens. Af­ter spend­ing two years on an un­ti­tled, big-bud­get ac­tion epic that flamed out in de­vel­op­ment hell, di­rec­tor Gareth Evans is fi­nally back. Apos­tle, his first English-lan­guage film, is set in 1904, but don’t ex­pect a dainty Ed­war­dian pe­riod drama. It stars Dan Stevens as a fallen preacher who, af­ter re­ceiv­ing a cryp­tic ran­som note, trav­els to an is­land to res­cue his sis­ter from Michael Sheen’s sin­is­ter cult. “He doesn’t know who the fuck has her,” says Evans. “Or the trap he’s walk­ing into.”

There’s cer­tainly noth­ing dainty about the set that Em­pire wit­nesses. The first thing we clock are blood-spat­tered shirts dry­ing on a clothes­line: wardrobe ca­su­al­ties from the pre­vi­ous day’s shoot. To­day’s se­quence, shot on a tee­ter­ing cliff edge, is no cheerier. It sees Stevens in­fil­trat­ing the is­land, and be­friend­ing Bill Mil­ner’s dis­ci­ple. The ca­ma­raderie doesn’t last long. Five hun­dred feet above the crash­ing waves, the con­ver­sa­tion de­scends into vi­o­lence as Stevens, armed with an axe, bat­ters a quiv­er­ing Mil­ner to the ground, de­mand­ing an­swers about his van­ished sis­ter. Over­head planes, bob­bing boom mikes and Stevens’ en­thu­si­as­tic slap­ping keep sab­o­tag­ing the shot. There are 10 takes. By the end of it, Mil­ner looks like a bat­tered cod. Evans isn’t mess­ing around here.

Based on the film­maker’s first ever short film, Rose Pe­tal, what started out as a “small, un­der-the-radar hor­ror” has es­ca­lated, says Evans, into some­thing “ab­so­lutely fuck­ing men­tal — we’ve even built an en­tire town for Sheen’s cult”. Filmed on Evans’ home turf in Wales, Apos­tle’s premise sounds like ‘Mis­sion­ary: Im­pos­si­ble’, and a rad­i­cal de­par­ture from the gang­lands of In­done­sia. “Well, it is and it isn’t,” says the 38-year-old di­rec­tor. “Apos­tle is a sur­vival hor­ror, but then so was The Raid — The Shin­ing and The Evil Dead were huge in­flu­ences on that film, but the tone I’m aim­ing for is vin­tage Bri­tish hor­ror. If I can get close to the para­noia that hums through Witchfinder Gen­eral, The Wicker Man and Ken Rus­sell’s The Dev­ils, I’ll be happy.”

At which point, Evans, who cuts as he shoots, pulls out an ipad and lets the footage do the talk­ing. While Evans’ frisky cam­era work and Stevens’ crunchy com­bat are rig­or­ously Raid-like, Evans re­ally isn’t jok­ing about The Dev­ils — one set-piece fea­tures a cult ri­tual so fe­ro­cious, a full year af­ter see­ing it, the sav­age im­agery’s still drilled into our skulls. If The Raid movies raised the bar for mar­tial arts cinema, looks like Evans is aim­ing his Taser at the hor­ror genre. Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Em­pire spoke to Gareth Evans on set in Brid­gend, South Wales, on 31 May 2017.

Clock­wise from main: Dan Stevens as Thomas Richard­son; With love in­ter­est An­drea (Lucy Boyn­ton); Michael Sheen (left) is Prophet Mal­colm Howe; Sin­is­ter things are afoot; Howe faces an as­sas­sin.

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