Thursday 8 January 2015
The Apostate: Call of the Revenant
Writer: Andy Dodd
Producers: Andy Dodd, Phoenix Laine
Cast: James Bryhan, Terri Dwyer, Anthony Webster
Year of release: 2015
Reviewed from: online screener
An apostate is someone who renounces a particular religion or faith. There have been a number of films called The Aspostate including a Dennis Hopper picture from 2000 and a Russian sci-fi feature from 1987 (and an episode of Casualty). A revenant is anyone who returns from the dead (or a long absence). Richard Elfman directed a rather fun vampire picture called Revenant, starring Rod Steiger, Casper Van Dien, Udo Kier and Craig Ferguson, which I saw at Fantasporto in 1998 (although by the time it was released some idiot distributor had retitled it Modern Vampires).
At the core of The Apostate are a brace of terrific performances: murder suspect Lance Cooper (James Bryhan: Lead Me to the Dark) and Detective Inspector Holly Andrews (Loose Women chatter Terri Dwyer, formerly of Hollyoaks and a local gal from just up the road in Syston), questioning Cooper in a featureless police station room. The film cuts between this interrogation and the events of four weeks previously when Cooper found himself, suffering memory loss, covered in blood and with a serious wound to one leg, trapped inside a small bathroom. For the first half of the film, we watch Cooper try desperately to escape and, when he finally does, try to make sense of his location and the other dead/dying people he finds there.
We also cut to a couple of scenes which predate the incident. In one he searches for, and finds the body of, his young daughter. In the other, he is visited at home by an enigmatic figure with long hair and a broad-brimmed hat who describes himself as a ‘revenant’.
What we find in the second half, after a very nasty incident at about 44 minutes which forces us to rethink all that has gone before, is that Cooper is an unreliable narrator. And this is the film’s strength. Even after the credits roll, we are still unsure how much of what we saw was what actually happened, how much was what Cooper thinks happened, and how much was what Cooper told DI Andrews happened. To say more would be to spoil a film which while certainly not 'enjoyable' in any way, is nevertheless compelling and gripping and ultimately satisfying in its open-endedness.
And if I have one other criticism, it's back up at the start of the film. Yes, it's adroitly directed and Bryhan's performance is magnificent, but the story takes a lo-o-ong time to get going. What is covered in 40 minutes would work better in 30, making the shock the end of act one instead of the mid-point of act two.
Also in the cast are Carol Cummings (who was in The Wrong Floor with me!), Bob Sanderson, Hannah Smart, Ella Childs (as the daughter), Anthony Webster (who was a beggar in The Hollow Crown) as the Revenant, and director-writer-DP-editor Andy Dodd. Alison McCabe (The Hunt for Gollum, Tales of the Supernatural) provided the excellent make-up.
The Apostate: Call of the Revenant had a premiere screening at the Telford Odeon in September 2014 but as of writing remains unreleased.
MJS rating: B+