All right, we’re in October Proper now and we’re moving on to Week Two of our horror movie countdown with a film from across the pond, The Ritual.
The Ritual is a 2017 British horror film that is one part Blair Witch Project and one part Silent Hill, with a little bit of some Lovecraft sprinkled in for flavor. I think the title kinda gives away too much with where the film is going, but it’s the title of the book, so I guess I cannot blame them for it.
The story follows four friends as they go on a hike through a Swedish hiking trail in order to honor the memory of a recently deceased friend, where they have a good time and go home… Just kidding. Instead, on the hike one friend gets injured, and instead of sticking to the path, they decide to take a shortcut through the woods… where bad things happen.
The film holds onto a brooding level of suspense, coupled with camera movements that resemble an animal watching its prey. The film rewards you for looking around the scenery (which is gorgeous I must add) with several quick glimpses of something keeping a close watch on the friends.
As for the plot, it is very light and simple, and relies on its execution to get the ball rolling and keep you invested with what’s going on. The shots of the world around them truly make the friends feel alone and lost in the woods.
The film has a truly great soundtrack, to boot. In fact, the soundtrack is one of the better ones I have heard for the horror genre, with tribalistic drum beats and sounds that mimic a heartbeat to ramp up the stress where it is needed, only to drop out and fade into the background to let the actors sell their performances.
As for the cast, everyone here is relatable and brings a genuine human quality to their roles. Just like real groups of friends, each brings something familiar but different to group.
One thing I do have to stress is that it is a British film, so some slang terms and phrases seem to get lost in translation. If this is your first British film, it can be a little off-putting because you feel like you missed something.
The script is very basic, with no overdone info dumps and no one waxing on about this or that. Instead, the group speaks to one another as friends would. It comes off as very organic and real. All this ramps up to the end, with a reveal that I felt was well worth everything going on.
So, like last week, I have to go into it a little. This information is in the trailer, but if you want to go into this blind, skip to the end. The set-up: While out at a bar drinking, Luke and his friends are planning a trip. His friends, who are all more successful than he, is want bigger, more lavish trips, but he cannot afford them.
As the night goes on, he still wants to drink, and goes to convenience store with his friend Rob while the others wait outside, only to find out the store is being robbed. Luke hides from view, leaving Rob in the sights of the robbers, which leads to his death.
Luke, feeling that Rob’s death was his fault, suggested taking the hiking trip, which had been Rob’s idea, as a way to mourn his passing. In the woods, each member of the group is faced with their fears. Luke emerges as the main character of the story, which focuses on his guilt that he lived and Rob didn’t. What they find in the woods is terrifying, but comes at the expense of everyone else being thrown to the background as we focus on Luke and his trauma, which is a stolid place to ground the story. But I would have liked more from everyone else, to really make some scenes hit harder.
The Ritual is a simple and traditional horror film that leaves a lot to the imagination. Filled with suspenseful moments and creepy imagery, the film so wants to be greater than the sum of its parts. But it falls short, with third-act problems and downgrading the importance of some people. But the great character journey thrown in there is a worthwhile payoff to the story.
Again no jump scares to be found here. Instead, the scares are crafted from the situation, which is a real plus for me. The Ritual can be found on iTunes, Netflix and on Blu-ray. It’s definitely worth your time, and makes for a great Halloween watch, even though it stumbles a little. But the execution makes up for that.
Next week, something a little different… Are bunnies scary? Thats right you read that right.