Gareth Evans (The Raid) latest film, Apostle, reminds us of the weight that consequence of sin and heresy can bear. It’s a film that engulfs viewers in its unnerving atmosphere and keeps engaging, even as its’ pace seems sedated. This is in complete contrast to Evans previous films, most notably The Raid, as he subjects viewers to the haunting, and oftentimes gruesome, storytelling in exchange for the fast-paced, martial arts action feature. Apostle tells the story of Thomas Richardson (played by Dan Stevens) who travels to a secluded island in search of his sister, Jennifer, who has been kidnapped by an enigmatic cult that seek ransom in exchange for her release. The cult’s leader and co-founder, Malcolm Howe (played by Michael Sheen), suspects an infiltrator within their midst and carries out a series of trials in search of the imposter. Yet as the film progresses, we find that the island houses more than just the mysterious cult within its boundaries, something much more terrifying lurks amongst the people of the island.
As Thomas comes to witness rituals of bloodletting, as well as mysterious apparitions of an elderly woman, the secrets buried underneath the island begin to unfold, leading to a series of gruesome moments. Evans storytelling does not confine viewers to the violence of the film, but rather, it helps explore the story further. This is done effectively due to the film’s interpersonal relationships among characters as well as the intensity of the story. The brutality of the film is simply the icing on the cake. The film’s true horror lies within the characters and the effect that fundamentalist religion, or the cult, has had on these characters.
Within recent years in horror, we have seen a growing number of period films as a preferred method of storytelling; several examples include The Witch (2015), The Woman in Black (2012), and The Awakening(2011), just to name a few. Apostle takes advantage of the time period, set in 1905, in order to deliver a story that’s isolating as well as emphasising a period that was unforgiving. The world within Apostle feels authentic, offering its’ fair share of religious fervor and violence, fueled by the stellar performances of each cast member. As Apostle unravels, the audience will bear witness to motives that drive each character, giving the storyline much more substance and depth. In particular, Dan’s Steven’s performance is one to take special notice as a man who’s at odds with himself and the rest of the world. His character, Thomas Richardson, not only battles his inner demons of drug addiction, but his conviction that purity solely exist in his sister, Jennifer, drives him to push beyond his limits in rescuing her. Thomas shares this insight with Andrea Howe, cult leader Malcolm Howes daughter (played by Lucy Boynton), stating, “The promise of the Divine is but an illusion. Nothing in this world is pure… except for Jennifer, my sister.”
Apostle is anything but transparent. Although the story spends the first act at a slow pace, Evans uses every detail in Apostle to reveal more of the plot and it’s characters. Thankfully to this strategy, Apostle is a well-thought, constructed film that analyzes the horrors of not only religious fanaticism, but the journey of rediscovering one’s own faith and belief in something profound, beyond our own limitations of existence. Apostle will not only cater to horror fans, but those seeking a thriller or perhaps those more drawn to the supernatural will find something to enjoy in this film. It’s an engaging experience that blends several themes of horror, from the atmospheric terrors of an isolated island to the violent nature of man, Apostle is a film to appreciate and enjoy. So check it out. It’s on Netflix.
Comic writer Cullen Bunn has successfully marked his place within the horror genre by creating stories plagued with fear, tension, and most importantly, have a way of engaging the reader. Bunn is currently helming the critically acclaimed series titled Bone Parish, by Boom! Studios, which takes readers on a surreal trip through the eyes of the dead. A new street drug, known as Ash, is engineered using the ashes of the dead to deliver a trip that drives its consumers wanting more. The Winter family, who are the sole proprietors of Ash, have found themselves in a predicament in the midst of a crime world they aren’t fully equipped to handle.
Written by Cullen Bunn with art by Jonas Scharf and coloring by Alex Guimaráes, Bone Parish delves deep into the real life horrors of crime, drug addiction, and nightmarish visions of the dead. Thanks to the art direction and colors of both Scharf and Guimaráes, Bone Parish delivers a wonderful and dark aesthetic by blending the surreal hallucinogens of Ash with the more tangible threat of drug crimes in the real world. The overall colortone of the comic expresses darker blue/green “cold” tones versus the brighter, more saturated, pink colors within the hallucinations generated by Ash. This contrast is helpful in two ways; first, it’s aesthetically appealing as it also guides the reader between the two worlds. Second, the saturated colors within the hallucinations are what make Ash so demanding as it offers an escape from the dark tones of the real world. In some cases, Ash even helps people connect with their loved ones lost in life.
These are the factors that make Bone Parish such a compelling and engaging read. The, at times, terrifying images conjured by the drug set against the crime ridden city of New Orleans offers high tension as the stakes for drug domination continues to rise. Bunn offers insight into the Winter family’s turbulent past which provides context and orients the reader about the present. It’s also Bunn’s writing that enables Scharf and Guimaráes to create a world that will completely engulf the reader into the surreal mixture of fantasy and the real world. Which world would you choose?
Bone Parish is currently on its third issue with number four ready to hit the shelves on October 31st, 2018, at your local comic book shop. Pick up the acclaimed series that ComicBook.com declares, “This is definitely a series you won’t want to miss out on”, and Multiversity Comics calls, “…equal parts intriguing, creepy, and intense”. You can also get more information regarding comic subscriptions as well as digital versions through the Boom! Studios official website below. Thanks for reading!
Daniel Kraus’s Rotters is an unconventional morbid tale of life, told through the obsession of death. It’s an ambitious take on a coming-of-age narrative that’s both rough on the edges and yet full of heart. Kraus takes his readers on a journey of the macabre in search of the beauty in life, which ironically is found beneath the gravestones, six feet within the Earth. It’s the artistry of grave robbing that teaches the book’s protagonist, Joey Crouch, that the things most people value, end up staying behind for the living to claim. Rotters reminds us of our mortality and how we are continually rotting away until our bodies are finally laid to rest. Rotters is a complex story of strained family relationships, friends, love, heartbreak, and most importantly, it questions our place in this world. Daniel Kraus printed Rotters in 2012 and is comprised of roughly 460 pages; the book was published by Ember, a division of Random House Inc.
According to Daniel Kraus’s official website, the synopsis for Rotters is as follows, “Grave robbing. What kind of monster would do such a thing? It’s true that Leonardo da Vinci did it, Shakespeare wrote about it, and the resurrection men of nineteenth-century Scotland practically made it an art. But none of this matters to Joey Crouch, a sixteen-year-old straight-A student living in Chicago with his single mom. For the most part, Joey’s life is about playing the trumpet and avoiding the daily humiliations of high school. Everything changes when Joey’s mother dies in a tragic accident and he is sent to rural Iowa to live with the father he has never known, a strange, solitary man with unimaginable secrets. At first, Joey’s father wants nothing to do with him, but once father and son come to terms with each other, Joey’s life takes a turn both macabre and exhilarating.”
Given Daniel Kraus’s history with the horror genre, with such titles including The Monster Variation (2009) and following Rotters with Scowler (2014) and The Shape of Water (2108), it comes to no surprise that Kraus would include horror elements to provide Rotters the dark undertones needed to effectively tell a chilling story. Joey Crouch is a character that many of us readers can relate to, with the exception of his particular circumstances of grave robbing. He’s a teenager struggling to fit in at a new school, constantly trying to figure out his identity and place in this world, smart, and of course, falls prey to the relentless heartache of unrequited love. Joey’s character in Rotters takes several shifts throughout the novel, which I found not only refreshing, but very engaging; I’d understand and support his decisions, then I’d be upset with his choices and where they’d lead him. The relationship between Joey and his father, Ken Harnett, takes a snail’s pace of development within the first half of the novel. In fact, the first half of Rotters focuses primarily on Joey’s relationship with Ken as well as his social status as the inconspicuous “freak” teenager in high school. It’s not until the second half of Rotters that we begin to notice a change of pace and direction of our central characters, as well as a developing conflict.
Kraus’s writing is exceptionally impressive as his ability to describe characters and their environments brings about the dark atmospheric tone that makes Rotters such a unique story. Kraus’s “voice” takes control of every scenario as his narrative, as clear as glass, allows readers to peer inside the story with an imagination armed with distinguishable style. Rotters is a novel that challenges readers to reflect on our own mortality as well as the decisions that either place value in the things that matter versus the things that don’t. Daniel Kraus has managed to write a novel that reflects the literary voices of the past, as Rotters borrows elements from the macabre such as the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, the obsession with the dead as with Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein and the haunting atmosphere told in eerie detail just as M.R. James ghost stories. You may see Rotters listed as “Young Adult Fiction”, but don’t let that stop you from giving Kraus’s novel a chance. It’s a dark flirtation with death and how the coming-of-age of protagonist Joey Crouch provides insight on the living, through the dead. If you can muster the courage to read through the first half of the novel’s slow development, you’ll be in for a stellar second half. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the novel’s trailer below.
Cullen Bunn is a three-time Bram Stoker nominated comic writer and novelist notable for his contributions to the horror genre in comics. In recent years, Bunn has written some of the more popular titles within the genre including Harrow County and Bone Parish. On August 22nd, 2018, Image Comics published Bunn’s most recent work titled Cold Spots, in collaboration with artist Mark Torres (Zombies vs. Robots: Undercity, TMNT). According to the Image Comics official website, Cold Spots synopsys states,
“Psychological terror, the undead, and a supernaturally bitter cold come together in this spine-tingling new series from CULLEN BUNN and MARK TORRES. 10 years ago, Dan Kerr turned his back on his wife and unborn daughter. Now, both mother and child have gone missing, and Dan must face cosmic terrors to find them again. He soon finds that ghosts stir when his estranged daughter is near. And as the dead grow restless, the cold deepens…”
Bunn’s writing slowly builds on the narrative, giving a steady drip of storyline that maintains its grip on the reader. The dialogue feels natural while Bunn will emphasize certain words, in BOLD form, to provide some insight within his writing. Cold Spots does an exceptional job of providing plot and character driven elements through two mediums, the writing and the art. As Bunn focuses his narrative strictly on plot, Mark Torres’s art provides insight into characters through subtle details that at times are profound. The horror elements throughout Cold Spots are one to appreciate, which remind me of Shattered Memories with a dark detective noir twist; and issue #1 truly delivers on these elements. The initial entry is a fantastic serving of horror, thrills, and mystery and I’m excited to see how the story will unfold in the following installments.
In order to enrich the experience of reading Cold Spots, each issue will include an accompanying free mp3 soundtrack that is available through a QR code and/or a Dropbox link provided within the comic. Pick up your copy today of Bunn’s latest horror piece and enjoy the experience with the free soundtrack. Cold Spots is a limited comic series that will run for five issues. You can pick up issue #2 on September 26th, 2018 at your local comic shop, or order directly through Image Comics (link provided below).
In Australia’s rustic backcountry lies the foundation of a zombie apocalypse that’s shrouded in a dismal atmosphere. Netflix’s Cargo, just recently premiered Friday, May 18th 2018. Starring Martin Freeman, most notable for his role as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, Cargo exchanges the gore-filled zombie feature for a more structured character driven narrative that is both engaging and emotional. The film follows an infected father, Andy (played by Martin Freeman), who has 48 hours to get his infant child to safety before his transformation to undead takes full form. Cargo is a full-feature based on a seven minute short film (of the same name) written by Yolanda Ramke and directed by Ramke and Ben Howling; both inheriting the same roles for the Netflix film.
Ramke’s attempt in presenting an expanded version of her short film is impressive, considering the limited amount of material in which she had to expand from the original short. The extent of a desperate father’s sole purpose in finding a safe home for his infant daughter is an emotional investment most of us are willing to make. Freeman’s character is relatable, likeable, and most importantly, reflects an idea of love and sacrifice we imagine we’d have in similar circumstances. Set against the desolate wilderness of Australia’s countryside, Cargo is an immersive journey that lends itself to the uncertainty that the vast and open environment cannot guarantee safety; and most frightening, nowhere to hide.
As Andy ventures on foot in search of safety, he not only encounters the ghouls that plague the outback, but survivors whose sense of entitlement to a land that no longer bears legal tenure creates aggressive confrontations. This does not suggest that every encounter is met with violence, but only shows the threat stretches beyond the undead. As Andy comes across several individuals, we bear witness to the struggles people endure in this apocalyptic world. With a limited amount of time (48 hours from the initial zombie bite) that Andy has to find a new and safe home for his infant child (Rose), he learns of a man, an Australian aboriginal named Willie, who would be capable of taking in his daughter.Learning of the mysterious Willie through a young aboriginal girl named Thoomi (played by actress Simone Landers), the film finally brings the plot together in the midst of Andy’s wandering the outback. Thoomi bears her own burdens as tensions begin to rise in the Australian outback.
By the third act of the film, Andy’s remaining hours prior to abandoning his humanity are dwindling by the minute. Martin Freeman’s likeable character compliments the intensity of the story as it becomes more difficult to accept his fate. Cargo’s verdict stands–it’s a moving horror/thriller that doesn’t downplay on the horror elements. Yolanda Ramke’s apocalyptic vision is a fresh take on the genre as the film’s location plays an important factor in the storytelling; the Australian aboriginal peoples are perhaps the most interesting of the film. Cargo is available for streaming exclusively on Netflix. If you’re interesting in checking out the original short film, also by Yolanda Ramke, you can find the YouTube link below. Thanks for reading.