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Apprentice To Murder

Apprentice To Murder

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Apprentice To Murder  Fire-and-brimstone preacher sees Satan everywhere, trains gullible young boy to “detect” evil, and the two of them commit several murders in the name of Jesus. Based on a true story.

STARS: Donald Sutherland, Chad Lowe, Mia Sara

97 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery | 1988 | Color


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A very fine movie, totally underrated. Despite a bad box for the DVD edition, this is NOT a "horror flick", but a greatly interesting and subtle approach of a strange and complex relationship between an influenced young man (Lowe) and a disturbed pow-wow-preacher, tortured by his secret fears -- and desires... Homosexual implications, wonderful camera work, and great musical score by Charles Gross. There is a magic in this movie, which places it somewhere between "The Night of the hunter" and "The Reflecting skin". Felicitations to R.L. Thomas. Oh !... and Donald Sutherland is memorable !... His performance is suave, well balanced, and constantly precise.

Almost a Folk Magic Docu-Drama
I love this movie and have recommended it to my students in folk-magic because it is closely based on a true story of murder, mysticism, and (possible) madness concerning a Pennsylvania Dutch Pow Wow doctor in the mid-1920s. Donald Sutherland is superb as John Reese, the highly eccentric conjure and herbalist. Chad Lowe is quite good as his young apprentice. The location shots, filmed in Norway, are spectacular -- not Pennsylvania Dutch country, exactly, but a wonderful rural landscape, with great old 19th century buildings. There is also a very good look at contemporaneous hoodoo practices, as the Pow Wow doctor seeks an outside consultation to cure his ills. If you're a prop and set decoration fan and knowledgeable about magic, look for the couple of Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs (inexplicably called "hexagrams" -- the movie's one false step) that contain Norse bind-runes thrown in on them -- obviously that was the Norwegian prop-maker's little in-joke. This is a great little underrated classic, and the perfect vehicle for Donald Sutherland.

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