Saturday 4 February 2023

Dark Film Review: Apocryphal

Dark Film Review: Apocryphal

Review by Casey Douglass

Apocryphal Poster

The way that a message is delivered is crucial to whether we believe it or not. We live in a time when ideas and perspectives are rejected not on the basis of their worth, but on the basis of who said them or dared put them forward. Apocryphal is a new short horror film from Josh Armstrong, one that deals with issues of mental health, drug addiction and marginalisation, depicting what happens when they rub up against extraordinary circumstances and consensus reality.

Apocryphal Still

Apocryphal centres around three friends living on the fringes of society whilst trying to score their next drug fix. The film shifts through time between Oliver (Michael Southgate) trying to convince two detectives about a strange event that he witnessed, and the viewer being shown how said events unfolded. Oliver tries to plot a course through his life, attempting to get a job and to find a way to pay the rent, but the spectre of his addiction looms large. Oliver sometimes sees things that aren’t there, and the only friends who understand him or make time for him seem to be the two people that will keep him mired in the life that he is living.

Apocryphal Still

The “event” in Apocryphal, the thing that causes Oliver to end up being interviewed by the police, is portrayed very well. I won’t spoil it, but it’s creepy, sci-fi and believably filmed. I particularly appreciated the lighting effects. The element that I most enjoyed however, was the questions that the film insinuates in the viewer’s mind, especially with regards to what is real and what Oliver thinks is real. My favourite moment is when the realities seem to bleed into each other, with Oliver seemingly saved by something that I believe was only “real” to him, if that makes sense. I didn’t expect such a lovely blend of reality twisting, and it was a nice surprise.

Apocryphal Still

Apocryphal deals with themes of suffering, addiction, escape and loss, in a way that I felt was layered and nuanced, which was a fantastic thing to see. The opening voice-over says that the thing we all have in common is that we suffer, and that is definitely true. When it comes to my own mental and physical health problems and my urge to escape, I’ve never tried illegal drugs, but I’ve never had access to them either, so who can say how my life might have turned out if I had. When the world turns its back on you, when all the places that you can go to for “help” say that they can’t do anything for you, or worse, mistreat or disbelieve you, I can totally understand why drugs as a way to cope or escape becomes so alluring. Yet even knowing this, I can honestly say that if I knew someone was on drugs, and they told me that they’d seen something similar to what Oliver witnesses, I’d more than likely not believe them either, which is a prickly thought, but one worth being aware of.

Apocryphal Still

Apocryphal was the subject of a successful Kickstarter project, so it’s great to see how a project can go from tentative beginnings to emerging into the world. The film is now being submitted to the film festival circuit, so I can’t give any idea about when and where you can see it just yet. I will embed the trailer below however. Apocryphal is dedicated to the memory of a friend of the director who passed away due to drug addiction, with any profits that the director personally makes going to the mental health charity Mind UK.


Film Title: Apocryphal

Themes: Mental Health, Drugs, Addiction, Horror

Director: Josh Armstrong

Main Cast: Michael Southgate, Emily Tucker, Alex Arnold, Kaysha Woollery, Sam Terry.

Music: Reg Length

Distributor: Last Dog Films