Director: David Bruckner
Starring: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton
Review Author: Tony
Released recently on Netflix worldwide, The Ritual actually got an earlier theatrical release here in Ireland and the Uk in October. The recent chatter on horror communities peaked my interest so for the first time in year’s I went out and picked up the DVD. In the last year, my resistance to horror films has cooled. I still believe that the majority of the genre is low effort/quality crap but it’s a genre that flourishes when done right. The Ritual is a pleasant surprise as it’s shrouded in mystery for the majority of the film. It’s a tad familiar but executed very efficiently.
Six months after the murder of their friend, four mates hike through the Swedish wilderness as a tribute to their deceased fifth member. On the return journey, one of the members severely injures his leg causing the group to decide to cut through a dense forest in order to cut their trek in half. It doesn’t take long for the group to find their lack of hiking experience has them hopelessly lost and with a creepy encounter with an elk corpse leads to tension among the friends. Through a series of unnerving events, the friends begin to realize they are not alone in this maze of a forest.
A strong cast with believable performances elevates The Ritual from your run-of-the-mill, lost in the woods horror film. Their reactions to events are convincingly relatable. There’s a scene where the friends wake in horror from a series of shared nightmares in a creepy hut that hammers home the true terror these men are facing. As the group faces more dire situations, blame and past issues begin to surface leading to a group that’s physically together but divided in spirit.
Director, David Bruckner elevates the suspense and creep factor to the max with eerie sound design and brilliant cinematography that shows an endless horizon of trees. Trapped in a forest is not a new concept for horror but Bruckner brings a keen eye and ear to build a sense of an inescapable setting. The Ritual also utilizes interesting dream sequences as the convenience store where their mate was murdered begins to bleed into the forest forcing one of the members of the group, Luke, to face the guilt he feels over freezing in the situation.
What holds the Ritual back is that it never really aims to be anything other than an effective well-made horror film. It’s scary, gory and well acted but just too familiar. Many of the beats feel far too similar to the Blair Witch Project. What might divide viewers is a frankly bonkers third act. It’s an extreme escalation that is a hoot for those on board but will have others clock out, personally, I’m in the former category. The Ritual is well worth checking out for horror aficionados and actually proves to be unsettling and scary.
Rating: 3.75 / 5 pints of Guinness