Director Gareth Evans' new movie Apostle features multiple brutal scenes throughout its runtime, but it's also a horror film that has a sense of restraint. Rather than constantly pushing your face into blood and gore, the move that it makes more often than not is suggesting really horrible violence and then letting imaginations fill in the blanks. It's a strategy that's actually really effective, and what's funny is the approach was partially influenced by Evans' father, as I learned during a recent interview. The filmmaker explained,
I've always had a thing like I can only rely on my own internal barometer for what's okay and what's not okay, and I can't really be too concerned about what other people have as their own personal barometers. I know my mother's barometer is very, very different than mine. My father's barometer kind of lines up a little more closely to my own. And my dad has always kind of said, 'Look, as long as it's not gratuitous, and it's not exploitative then it's all right.' You just kind of get behind it. So I always try to kind of think like, 'Well, what would be the thing that would cross the line with him?' And then pull it back from there.
I had the pleasure of sitting down one-on-one with Gareth Evans last month following Apostle's premiere at Austin, Texas' Fantastic Fest, and during that conversation one subject discussed was the writer/director's approach to violence. Acknowledging that his new movie doesn't get too overly explicit, I asked Evans about his personal philosophy in the area. As it turns out, one factor he keeps in mind during the production/editing phases is how his dad would feel watching the material, and judges from there.
Going further, Gareth Evans specifically highlighted what will ultimately be seen as one of Apostle's most notorious scenes -- what he describes as the Heathen's Stand. Appearing toward the end of the movie, it's a torture device that primarily gets the job done with what are essentially giant, hand-turned corkscrews. Without going into detail, it's all pretty disgusting, but it's much more about the ideas than actually what's shown on screen. Discussing the sequence, Evans said,
When it came to like things like the sequence with the Heathen's Stand, it was always about I'm going to show you how the mechanism works. I'm going to show you how it all functions, and how if you turned this, it goes there; if you turn this, that goes there. And then from then on in it's just you, and I'm not going to show you that. I'm going to show people's reactions to it, and I'm going to have a shot that's not giving you any of the detail. But then you're going to be putting that in your own head in a way. So that kind of works for that.