Apprentice to Murder

08/18/2015 20:43

Film: Apprentice to Murder

Year: 1988

Director: Ralph L. Thomas

Writer: Wesley Moore and Allan Scott

Starring: Donald Sutherland, Chad Lowe and Mia Sara



This film begin with a young man hunting in the woods, he is played by Chad Lowe. He shoots a rabbit, but a tall man steps in front of him, he is played by Knut Husebø. This scares Lowe and he flees. We learn from this film that Husebø is a hermit who has lived alone ever since his brother committed suicide.

Lowe lives with his mother, played by Rutanya Alda, and his father, who is played by Eddie Jones. Jones is an alcoholic and angry when he is drunk. He comes home and is mean to his family. Lowe tries to stop him, but gets punched in the face.

We learn that this film takes place in Pennsylvania in 1927. Lowe is 16 years old. The same night as the fight with his father, he goes to spy on Husebø.

Lowe works in a factory and he is visited by a new girl at work, she is played by Mia Sara. Lowe informs her that she was sent so that everyone in the factory could see her, but it will get easier from this point on. She takes a liking to him and tells him that she is saving up to move to Philadelphia. She is working two jobs. She asks Lowe about his eye and he avoids the topic. After work, they are walking together when a rabid dog appears. Everyone flees in terror, but a powwow doctor, played by Donald Sutherland, stops the dog. Sara tells Lowe that he is living at her place, with her and her mother. She thinks Lowe should see him about his eye.

Sara brings Lowe to her room. She wants to be a typist and she types a message to Lowe. He takes it, which tells him when she is free on Sunday. He flees to Sutherland. The older man believes that Lowe is there about his eye and Sutherland uses some weird method with switches, the small tree branches. Lowe tells him that he came there to see if he had a remedy to stop his father from drinking. Sutherland gives him a powder and tells him to put it in his food. It won’t hurt anyone unless they drink alcohol. Lowe also shows Sutherland a drawing he did of him. Sutherland is amazed and curious about the image of Husebø on the other side. Sutherland asks Lowe if he would draw him a few hexagrams. Lowe agrees.

The powder works and Jones stops drinking that day. Lowe draws a few different variations for Sutherland and takes them to him at night. Sara speaks with him before he goes in. Lowe informs Sutherland that he cannot read and asks if he will teach him. Sutherland agrees and they start that night.

They become almost inseparable. Sutherland teaches him how to read and also how to heal like he does. Sara and Lowe become very close as well. Jones starts to feel better and comes to church with his family. They are running late though and go to the congregation of Sutherland. Lowe shows there that he has learned to read.

After the service, we get that the police are trying to stop Sutherland from performing medicine, since he has not learned the proper ways. They force him to stop especially since a young girl died. He won’t stop though and he is arrested. Lowe goes to bail him out. There is talk that he is phony, but Lowe doesn’t believe. There is also talk that he was in a mental hospital, but he states he is not crazy and has not gone mad. Sara doesn’t like that he spends so much time with him.

Sara and Lowe decide to go to Philadelphia together. Both have some money saved up. Jones gives Lowe his blessing and has some money for him as well. Sutherland ends up coming with him when he is trying to find what is causing the curse affecting the Myers farm. He fought Satan before he left, but needs to go to Philadelphia to get help to see who is causing it.

Sara wants Lowe to stay with her, but leaves when he continues to help Sutherland. After doing a ritual with Minnie Gentry, they learn that Husebø is causing it. Jones also finds out that Alda has been ‘poisoning’ him to stop drinking. He goes and gets drunk that night and ends up burning their house down. Sutherland and Lowe are back in town to take away Husebø’s power. They believe he is causing the curse and that he killed Lowe’s parents.

Is Husebø causing this or is it all in their mind? Does Sutherland do everything he says or is it all a farce? Will Lowe realize it before it is too late? Will he lose Sara in the process?

I have to say that this film does have some good aspects. I love that it takes place in the 20s where science was not as advanced and with the economy of the time, someone like Sutherland could practice as he does. I also love that it takes place in a small town, where there is already a familiarity that makes some people gullible and trusting if someone can prove it like Sutherland. I thought Lowe was great as the naïve, simple boy that is manipulated. Sutherland is great as the crazy, preacher/doctor that takes advantage of him as well.

Now I do have quite a bit of issues with this film though. I felt that the director Ralph L. Thomas fell a little flat on what he wanted to do. I think they could have played up more the isolation of the town and the fear that comes with it. I also think that the Husebø storyline was showed a few times, but then abandoned. It does come full circle, but I felt they needed more to develop it. I also was not very impressed by Sara. I find her to be very attractive, but her character fell in love with Lowe way too fast. It could be that era and that there was no one else her age, but it wasn’t as believable for me. Up until the end though, I wasn’t sure if what we were seeing with Sutherland was real or not and that kind of confused me a bit.

With that said, this is really a hard-to-find 80s gem. There is some good acting, the concept is really good, but the story is a little bit weak. I still found it to be interesting; even more that it is inspired by a true story. I would recommend it if this sounds good or you are a big fan of Sutherland, he is great. This is not the best film out there and there is not a lot of horror in this, but the scariest part is that an impressible, young man could be convinced to do what happens at the end. The film shows it in the 20s, but it really is a timeless concept.


My Rating: 5 out of 10