Gareth Edwards’ Apostle

Gareth Evans, no matter the genre he’s working in, has a tendency to throw everything he can think of into the mix, and it’s a tactic that has won me over. In his monumental Raid films it was action sequences piled onto each other so fast and furious it left the viewer gasping and in his gorgeous, positively blood saturated pagan horror extravaganza Apostle it’s every kind of gristly, folk horror inspired, uber-gory piece of horror mayhem you could shake a bloody stick at. Dan Stevens and his eyes so intense they could melt steel play a haunted missionary sometime in the 18th century, tasked with infiltrating a spooky cult residing on a British Isle, the last known location of his estranged sister who has up and vanished. After a stormy, discomforting boat ride out from the mainland, he arrives to find a drab, bleak spirited colony full of whispers, shadows, brooding malcontent and the subtly felt presence of something… otherworldly. The tribes leader is a man of frothing fervour, played by the always excellent Michael Sheen in an impossibly implosive turn with a nice, unexpected arc. The villain isn’t who you think it’s going to be here and once the real piece of work antagonist rears their head, the film shifts from creeping uneasiness right into third gear of fucking maniacal, over the top horror mayhem that doesn’t quit until the exhale on the heels of one of the most jaw dropping third acts I’ve seen in a while. Stevens is a terrific actor in any role, I greatly enjoyed his work in the underrated Liam Neeson thriller Walk Among The Tombstones as well as the schlocky 80’s inspired bit of madness that was The Guest. He’s brilliant here, a picture of hell before he even arrives on the island, and progressively more fierce and despairing as each passing hurdle beats him down. Sheen turns on the wild eyed tenacity as the zealot chieftain who discovers that mutiny and past deeds aren’t even the worst things about to befall him and his freaky little community. This is a ruthless, mile a minute slice of horror and there’s some shitty humans doing terrible things to each other that one must bear witness too, but there’s also some darkly beautiful elements of earthen, witchy horror that balance out the crazed religious mania with something refreshingly more esoteric. Just wear a metaphorical raincoat though, because there’s so much blood n’ gore in this one that no matter where you sit you’ll feel like you’re in the splatter zone. A pretty magnificent horror film.

-Nate Hill

Oz Perkin’s February, aka The Blackcoat’s Daughter

I like Emma Roberts, and really dig the career path she’s chosen for herself so far. Daughter of eccentric, legendary badass Eric Roberts and niece to Hollywood’s darling superstar Julia, she could have easily taken the oft trodden path of teen sensation, appearing only in stuff that appeals to a new generation that’s forgotten much of the odd, freaky stuff of former times. Instead she’s deliberately accepted best, off kilter genre scripts, using an ongoing stint on FX’s American Horror Story as a launching pad for some really interesting projects that duck the mainstream, just like her dad. Oz Perkin’s February is one such outing, a laconic, nightmarish mood piece that plays like a demon possession film without all of the tired hysterics, using pacing, atmosphere and glacially mounting dread to tell its story. Roberts plays a young runaway stranded outside a hospital on one cold night. Picked up by a kindly man (James Remar ditching the villain shtick) and his wife (Lauren Holly, who apparently is still in films after all!), she embarks on a tense road trip towards a county far away. In said county, two forgotten girls (Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton) spend the holiday break at their catholic school. Gradually they start to feel some presence in the building, haunting them, and then shit gets crazy. This is textbook slow burn territory though, and anyone expecting a trove of jump scares need not apply. There are a few well earned moments of terror, but they’re fleeting, and all the more disturbing as a result. There’s a vagueness to the narrative too, with just enough left unexplained to spark some interesting Reddit discussions. A dark, moody flick that rewards those who give full attention with some scary secrets and a smothering atmosphere of danger on the horizon. You’ll find this titled as ‘The Blackcoat’s Daughter’ on demand and iTunes, but that title seems to not mean much except to quite an eerie song used throughout the film.

-Nate Hill