If we set out to retell the plot of the historical-religious horror film “Apostle,” we get an elementary quest chain in the style of “found out-came-investigate-rescue”. But if you look more closely at the story, you will suddenly discover a second layer. Not a simple one, but the one that allows for multiple interpretations, just like the ending. Below you will find attempts to explain the outcome of the mystery thriller by Gareth Evans and make sense of the plot twists and turns.
Warning. Spoilers! If you haven’t watched it, add the article to your bookmarks and come back to it a little later.
I warn you in advance that I am writing this text, based entirely on personal impressions. There is no guarantee that my reflections will turn out to be the only true ones. But there is no guarantee that they will not be…
Plot analysis of “Apostle”
The events of the film take place in 1905 when a community of cultists already existed on the island. But in fact, a series of mysterious and frightening events began many years ago when three friends discovered a derelict peninsula not far from Great Britain. On it, they decided to establish a utopian settlement away from rotten civilization and its ridiculous laws.
It later turned out that the island had been inhabited before; rock paintings depicting an unknown goddess hint at it in a non-transparent way. Except that by the time of the new settlement, there is no trace of the former owners’ existence. The prophet Malcolm, one of the central characters and the main villain, notes that he and his friends built all the buildings and amenities on the island with their own hands.
Later it emerges that the island is inhabited by a powerful entity, which the cultists perceive as a kind of Mother Goddess. But in fact, it’s more likely to be either a genius loci, one in two persons/forms – chaotic and peaceful – or a member of a small people known as faeries (or fairies). In many ancient legends and tales, both the former and the latter were often offered bloody sacrifices, including human sacrifices, in order to win favor and to be rewarded for their loyalty with rich crops or litter of livestock.
The problem is that by the time Thomas Richardson arrives in the community, determined to rescue his sister from the hands of her captors, the blood sacrifices to the local goddess are fruitless: crops and livestock are dying, people are sick, and there is nothing to exist on, money has run out. It must have happened because the settlement’s founders had captured that very essence and tried to tame it.
But while the peaceful – weakened part – of the spirit of nature was in captivity, her chaotic evil half took revenge on the settlers in every way possible. However, this is she – the embittered Mother-Goddess – who indirectly helps the main character to destroy the cult and save the people and his own sister. Even if at the cost of her life.
Explanation of the ending of “Apostle”
In fact, the finale of the horror allows for several equal interpretations. You can choose one among them that suits your perception best. Or you can come up with your own – the best.
Thomas Richardson has safely coped with the task – he saved his sister and the lost souls of the surviving cultists from the oppression of the cruel false prophets, and now he dies with the knowledge of the accomplished duty. With calm and peace in his heart, the protagonist dies at peace with himself. The healed nature of the island takes him as another victim and consumes him.
Thomas’s death is an illusion. Actually, his death does feel like a bloody sacrifice, but the entity on the island had given him his power in the barn and made him heir to the island. There’s a reason the old witch grabbed him by the head and called him son! The protagonist becomes a new genius loci (“spirit of place” who has the power within a specific location – such entities are known from Roman mythology, which in many ways became the basis for English culture). Or the faerie, who is a representative of a small people who represent the forces of nature.
A further indication of this development is the change in Thomas’s appearance in the final shots, a clear hint that Gareth Evans was inspired by Welsh and Celtic mythology when writing the script. In both, the forces of nature are often depicted as humanoid beings, which modern authors interpret as faeries or fairies. Sometimes these very nature spirits are united in two faces – for example, the peaceful beginning (fertility, summer) neighbors the aggressive one (chaos, death, winter).
The finale is an attempt to throw in the standard symbolism. In the way that humankind thoughtlessly and cruelly exploits Mother Nature and gets a response – a very aggressive response – to its actions, but in the end, inevitably merges with her in death. The standard ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.