I first encountered filmmaker Andy Dodd back in 2012 when I reviewed his film short entitled “It’s a Love Thing”, a bittersweet tale of first love which I enjoyed so much I was quite pleased to review his next film short, “Something I Never Had”. This second film short was also very enjoyable but it had been awhile since I’d heard from Andy. However, I was thrilled earlier this month to see an email in my inbox from this fine filmmaker, and even happier to read that his next film, a feature, was ready for viewing.
“The Apostate: Call of the Revenant” is essentially a thriller tinged with some horror overtones, quite a departure from the aforementioned short films. James Bryhan stars as Lance Cooper, a man who awakens horribly injured and lost in the office area of an abandoned car park. His head is bloodied and he has a deep gash in his upper leg; however, he has no recollection of what happened or how he ended up barricaded in the office bathroom. Told in flashbacks and police interrogations, Cooper—along with the audience—slowly pieces the mystery together. Though Cooper is horribly injured himself, he isn’t necessarily the only victim of this crime. And as we receive more information through police interviews with Cooper as well as his own memories, we discover that a grisly tragedy has occurred. But even as we realize the scope of the crime, the audience is left unprepared for the final, twisted discovery of the killer’s identity and motivation.
The term “grisly” is an appropriate adjective for this film. There is plenty of blood and gore for the horror aficionado though I wouldn’t necessarily classify the film as straight horror. It’s more of a bloody mystery film and might be compared to the Italian giallo films popular in the 70’s and 80’s, made famous by the likes of Dario Argento and others. But while gialli were famous for their style-over-substance film techniques and sometimes incomprehensible plots, “The Apostate” does not share these qualities. While the film opens with a great mystery, it isn’t nearly as obtuse as many gialli and the patient viewer will be rewarded with a satisfying explanation of events. And while gialli were also famous for their kinky sexual themes and scenes of extreme violent death, “The Apostate” shares only one of these characteristics with the Italian genre, as Dodd steers away from any sexual themes in his film.
Dodd is practically a one-man band. Along with directing this feature, he also wrote the screenplay. A solid piece of writing, Dodd manages to maintain the mystery until nearly the very end of the film. He also manages to tie up all the loose ends satisfactorily. Dodd also shot (along with Catherine Kerr-Phillips) and edited the film along with providing most of the visual effects. While a couple of effects betray the low budget of the film, they are generally very well-done and Dodd avoids the trap many indie filmmakers fall into by using too many digital effects. Instead he opts for mostly practical makeup. I noticed only one instance of a digital effect, but it was relatively minor.
Another high point of the film was the musical score by Mark Wind. Never obtrusive, it lends tension when needed and is well-balanced throughout.
“The Apostate: Call of the Revenant” is a terrific first feature from an excellent filmmaker. If you enjoy a good mystery and aren’t afraid of a little blood, then this film would be a good choice.