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Fantastic Fest: Gareth Evans on using weaponized religion as inspiration for Apostle

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Sep 22, 2018, 11:38 AM EDT (Updated)

Day two of Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, featured the world premiere of Apostlea gruesome cult horror film from writer/director Gareth Evans, perhaps best known as the mind behind The Raid and The Raid 2.

Set sometime in the early part of the 20th century, Apostle tells the story of Thomas Richardson, a man who's tasked with tracking down his missing sister, whose last known whereabouts were with a mysterious cult that has taken residence on an isolated island. Once Thomas arrives, he finds a desperate, broken society that's struggling to survive. Before long, a vicious power struggle threatens both his mission and his life.

After the Friday afternoon screening at the Alamo Drafthouse, Evans and producer Aram Tertzakian were on hand to talk about how mythology played a role in creating the film. Specifically, what Evans hopes Apostle says about organized religion as a whole.

"I didn't want it to be seen as an attack on any kind of religion, to be honest," Evans told the crowd, including SYFY WIRE. "I wanted it to be seen more about the idea of the corruption of religion for political means, and the way people of certain political leanings will use Christianity in order to empower those beliefs. That was the main theme. I wanted it to feel very much [like] subtext. For this, it's more about telling an interesting adventure thriller-slash-horror film, but for there to be something underneath it."

Evans further explained that while writing the script, he didn't have to look far to see examples in our modern-day society of what he was aiming to portray.

"We started writing this in 2016, so there was a lot of nightmarish imagery that was feeding into it," said Evans, who let current events inform the period piece. "All of my favorite horror [films] borrow from what's coming out of the headlines, and that's what I wanted to feed into this. The ritualistic elements of it."

Though the contentiousness of the 2016 news cycle invariably helped Evans creatively, producer Tertzakian added that Apostle is first and foremost a movie that tells the story of those who feel alienated.

"It's really not a film about any kind of majority, it's about outsiders," said Tertzakian. "Whether it's Thomas' character, or the cult, or anyone mixed into any kind of situation, there is no majority. Everybody is an outsider looking for somewhere to fit in."

Apostle will be available to stream on Netflix starting on Oct. 12. In the meantime, be sure to check out all of SYFY WIRE’s Fantastic Fest coverage all through next week.