O Apostolo: Film Review

This creepily atmospheric animated film boasts haunting, gorgeously hand-crafted imagery.

This Spanish stop-motion animated film tells the story of an escaped convict who finds more than he bargained for in a remote mountain village.

There’s an unsettling creepiness on display in O Apostolo (The Apostle), the Spanish stop-motion animated film currently receiving an Oscar-qualifying theatrical run. This award-winning debut feature by Fernando Cortizo about an escaped convict who finds more than he bargained for in a remote mountain village boasts haunting visuals and rich atmospherics that are not easily forgotten. Whether it can compete for awards attention with the Hollywood animated juggernauts is another question.

The fanciful, Brothers Grimm-style storyline concerns Ramon (Carlos Blanco), who breaks out of prison and sets off to retrieve a treasure of jewels that a fellow prisoner had hidden years earlier in a small pueblo on the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James), a route for Christian pilgrims. The few elderly villagers living there are extremely hospitable, but their friendliness is merely a ruse. In reality, they’re living under an ancient curse in which they must find fresh souls to trade with the Grim Reaper, and Ramon soon finds himself in danger of being their latest prey.  

While the spooky narrative tends to meander in frustrating fashion at times, the rich imagery provides ample compensation. The handcrafted settings and claymation characters are rendered with a vivid imagination and attention to detail that is further enhanced by the gorgeous lensing, the choral music score partially composed by Philip Glass, and the excellent performances by the Spanish language voice talents, including Geraldine Chaplin and the late Spanish horror film star Paul Naschy as a corpulent, blustery archbishop who provides some much needed comic relief.

Production: Artefacto Producciones, Film Arante
Cast: Carlos Blanco, Xose M. Olveira “Pico,” Paul Naschy, Jorge Sanz, Celso Bugallo, Geraldine Chaplin
Director/screenwriter: Fernando Cortizo
Executive producers: Isabel Rey, Solomon J. LeFlore, Susan Gee, Jacqueline Scott
Director of photography: David Nardi
Production designer: Fred de Bradeny
Composers: Philip Glass, Xavier Font, Arturo Vaquero
Not rated, 84 min.