THE APOSTLES (2014) short review

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Joe Chien’s The Apostles tells of Lu Yun (Josie Ho), a novelist who after a car accident has been suffering from nightmares and short-term memory loss. After her husband dies in plane crash, she is contacted by Hab Bin (Xia Fan), a man whose girlfriend also died in that crash, and who found a cellphone belonging to Lu Yun’s husband in her remains. Realizing their respective partners were having an affair and were planning to go to a mysterious desolate town called X, Lu Yun and Hab Bin decide to head for that town in search of answers. Mixing elements from the Silent Hill games and films (a haunting phantom town), Christopher Nolan’s Memento (investigating a spouse’s death while coping with memory loss) and Sidney Pollack’s Random Hearts (a man and a woman brought together by the infidelity and tragic death of their respective spouses), The Apostles starts out in fairly derivative fashion, but nevertheless manages to gather tension and atmosphere, especially thanks to effective and haunting nightmare sequences, unsettling situations and the excellent Josie Ho’s affecting performance. Then just as it seems the film is fading out into the usual cognitive shortcuts (show mysterious images then explain them away as figments of the lead character’s imagination), it starts unraveling a final revelation so narratively and visually bold that it deserves quite a bit of admiration. For in daring to so strikingly and assuredly jump the shark, The Apostles rises well above most of Chinese horror. ***

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