After a title card stating that the events of film are based on true events and a quote by Ted Bundy, the story opens with a man, bloodied and battered, locked in a bathroom with no recollection of the preceding events that led him there. The man’s struggle to find a way out, compounded by a head injury and deep thigh laceration, are spliced with scenes of him in police custody weeks later. Through Detective Hollie Andrews dogged interrogation, we quickly discover this man, Lance Cooper, is the primary suspect in a grisly crime. Just what that crime is, however, is not immediately clear to the audience.
The role of lead Lance Cooper, played by James Bryhan, is largely a physical one. Much of the running time is spent with Lance’s wordless struggle to make it out of the bathroom in which he’s enclosed, fumbling to pick him up off of the blood soaked ground with a deep leg wound and head trauma. Along the way, the viewer receives all too brief glimpses of his backstory. His grief over losing his only child and his encounter with a strange man who calls himself a revenant are shown in flashes. The bulk of the running time is spent with Lance in the past, stuck in that bathroom alone and confused.
At a very short running time of one hour and 22 minutes, it takes Lance until the thirty minute mark to finally make his way out of that bathroom. There’s still no real sense of who Lance is by this point, either. The flashback scenes provided are meant to flesh out his character, but they’re too brief and shallow to give you much information beyond that he’s grieving over his dead daughter. This seems to be a deliberate choice by writer/director Andy Dodd, intending to keep the audience just as much in the dark as Lance seems to be.
Once free, Lance begins discovering bodies throughout the rest of the building, and it soon becomes clear that Lance may not be the most reliable of narrators. The events of what happened in that building are revealed in slow, grisly fashion. The reveal culminates in one bloody, dark climax not meant for the eyes of the squeamish.
Unfortunately, not enough is revealed about any of the characters at this point to be fully invested in this story. The victims’ introductions are a brief afterthought, given after their corpses are discovered on screen. Why the killers chose these people as victims, and if there’s even any correlation at all between the victims and killer remain a mystery until a text-based epilogue explains the crucial plot details that the film failed to convey.
Not all, it is clear that this is a film about a deep psychological break. Duality seems to be the heavy focus, often shifting between a sad but seemingly benign Lance and the dark intensity of his escape from a building littered with the dead. The scope of the story, however, is too narrow. The pacing choices offer intensity to the detriment of character development. Expanding on the scenes offering insight into Lance and editing the length of time in his bathroom prison perhaps might have widened the lens. What happened to the victims is harrowing; knowing who they were and developing an attachment to them prior would up the stakes.
Photographically and conceptually speaking, the Apostate: Call of the Revenant is competently made. This film also excels at giving a quick glimpse into a very disturbed mind. The idea of an unreliable narrator in a gruesome thriller such as this is a riveting one. However, the narrator still needs to be able to effectively tell a story, and Lance withheld far too much from the audience to remain engaging.
Rating: 5 out of 10