For his latest film, Gareth Evans (The Raid, The Raid 2) heads back into horror territory with Apostle, his tale of redemption and sacrifice that follows Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) to a remote island in an effort to save his kidnapped sister from a religious cult. Evans’ first English-language project in over a decade, Apostle arrives on Netflix on October 12th, and for those who enjoy cult and folk horror, this should prove to be very much in your wheelhouse.

While in Austin for Fantastic Fest 2018, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with Evans briefly about the inspirations behind Apostle, and he discussed crafting a story that’s both timeless and timely, collaborating with the film’s star Dan Stevens, and more.

Congratulations, Gareth. It's so great to speak with you again. There's a lot that happens in Apostle, and of course there are some things I don't really want to go into just to preserve it for everyone, but can you discuss what inspired you to take this route? There’s some cult horror here, but there are a lot of folk horror aspects to this as well, and it all pretty much rides on Dan's shoulders because he's the guy guiding us into all this craziness.

Gareth Evans: He's the POV, for sure. So, first of all, I had the pleasure of making a short film with Timo Tjahjanto. We did “Safe Haven” for V/H/S/2 together. For me, that was my first time playing within the horror genre, and obviously that was cult-based as well. But it was quite interesting to me to make this film, because it was this completely different thing. This was a different muscle to flex for me in filmmaking. There were certain things that made me realize there were similarities between action filmmaking and horror filmmaking. Even in action films, we always try to precede that explosion of action by having tension building up to it, so the suspense and the tension were really interesting for me to play with.

I had moved back to Wales, and I was looking for something to do that I could make that was going to be in the UK, and specifically something I could shoot in Wales, and so naturally I had an old short film idea from way back when before I even started making anything professionally that was a very, very, very small-scale iteration of this. A part of it was a sibling searching for another sibling and there was an envelope with a rose petal in there. So I started watching all these British folk horror films, trying to take some inspiration from them, like The Witchfinder General or The Wicker Man, obviously. I wanted to just invest myself in them and figure out the aesthetics of them, figure out the tone, what it was about these communities that feel slightly askew from ours and why that makes me more afraid.

And then it was this thing of realizing I'm more afraid of humans than I am of goblins and ghouls and ghosts and demons. I don't believe in them. But I believe in people and I believe in people's ability to be horrendously violent at times. That ended up being a leaping-off point for me in order to create this world.

It was interesting to me that this story has a lot of parallels with things happening now, even though this is a film set over a hundred years ago. Was it conscientious in your mind that while you were making this story that feels very timeless, it was also timely at the same time?

Gareth Evans: It's one of those things where I didn't want to imbue the film with a sort of social statement, because I do think first and foremost what we made is a thriller adventure horror experience. But, as in all of my favorite horror films, there's an underlying subtext there, where they are trying to reflect upon the headlines of the times, or the news of the times. When we started writing this in 2016, in terms of the headlines, there was a lot going on about religion being used to politicize. It was about galvanizing a political ideology through religion. You see these horrific headlines about ISIS conducting these horrific but orchestrated executions. We live in a society now where every day we're bombarded with these horrendous, atrocious stories from around the globe, and we're expected to just consume and deal with it.

And that freaked me out. I got off Twitter because I couldn't handle the fact that I would wake up in the morning and the first thing I'd do is check the timeline and 240 different people tweeted that something horrendous had happened. I don't think we're built as humans to be able to accept that level of sadness and aggression, especially when I haven't even had my cereal yet. So in a way, I agree that this feels timely, but my focus was to create something that was timeless. I think about all of these metaphors and ideas throughout history and it’s hard to believe that these things that are centuries old would still apply.

Dan is excellent in this movie. There are so many interesting parts to his role because a lot of what he does early in the movie, there isn’t a lot of dialogue for him. And as he gets more entrenched in this place, this character comes to life and becomes something completely different. Can you talk about collaborating with him through this process?

Gareth Evans: The great thing about Dan is that, first and foremost, when you meet him, he's just the most charming, charismatic human being you've probably ever met. It's ridiculous. But he doesn't take himself too seriously in that respect. He's willing to rough up and scruff up, and he’s willing to not play the out-and-out hero. I think if we played his character as the guy who goes in all guns blazing and trailblazing his way through, which I think was a lot of people's expectations before they saw this film, I think everyone would have just thought he was doing The Guest again, where he shows up and beats everyone's ass. And I didn’t want this to be the way that Apostle was going to play out.

The thing about his character in this is that he’s not necessarily the right person to do this mission. He’s gonna have to endure an awful lot in order to succeed. Dan was game for that and he was into that, and into this idea, and I think going with a very different approach added another layer of vulnerability to him. It also made him more interesting as a protagonist as well. And Dan just threw himself head on into everything. I loved working with him.

Your films have always been ambitious, but this feels like a completely different level because it's like you're building this village, you're taking people to these little remote locations, plus you have all these other elements I don’t want to spoil for viewers. How did you handle the challenges of putting this film together?

Gareth Evans: I was very, very fortunate that my producer from Severn Screen put me in touch with a lot of very talented crew members who were based out of Wales. And then, there was Tom Pearce, my production designer, who did an incredible job of creating this world with me. We designed it from the ground up with everything else, and then he just went off and made the most amazing set that we could film on.

We also had great makeup and costume departments, and we went through the whole gamut of figuring out the right period and tone for the style. I know my first inclination was that they should all be uniformly dressed. But then my costume designer [Jane Spicer], thank God, because she's the best, said to me that she thought on a visual level, this was going to be boring if everyone's just wearing the same outfit all the time. She wanted to find stuff that's accurate from that period of time and added all these little different touches and flashes and pops of color, and she was absolutely right. Her work alone created this feeling where everyone felt like their own little character.

So, it was a really nice experience to see all these different departments come together because that unity really helped with the overall feeling of this film. Everyone was working with so much enthusiasm to make the world feel as real and as authentic as we could, while still telling this incredibly absurd sort of story, and their passion is a huge reason why this story comes together as well as it does.


Keep an eye on our Fantastic Fest 2018 hub to keep up to date on all of our live coverage from Austin!

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.