A standard horror that does it job of thrilling and scaring audiences while offering a lesson on friendship.
Although The Ritual hasn’t given anything new in the world of the horror genre, the British film commitment to deliver a solid and traditional scary experience is very appraisable.
Based on an acclaimed novel by Adam Nevill, it contains the standard dark rainy nights, a ginormous forest, a spooky cabin in the woods, and an unknown and evil creature (that impales animals on trees).
David Bruckner’s film begins in a very British setting: the pub. When friends Luke (Rafe Spall), Robert (Paul Reid), Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Phil (Arsher Ali) and Dom (Sam Troughton) are debating where to go on holiday, hiking or a party holiday in Ibiza, Luke tries to convince his mates into buying more booze. With only Robert following him into the off-licence shop, the two friends come across a hold-up and Robert is beaten to death while Luke hides, cowering at the end of an aisle.
The lads then go hiking in Sweden to celebrate Robert’s memory and create a shrine on top of a mountain. Although is not yet noticed that his friends blame Luke for what happened, Spall’s character is always distant, and you can see the self-loathing he carries every time he is smoking a cigarette.
The walking and the lack of alcohol starts to become too much for Luke and when Dom twists his knee, Hutch decides is time to take a short-cut through the forest. We all know what happens when people take short-cuts in horrors… Not surprisingly; the forest is quiet and spooky. The close-up shots of the characters keep the audience on their toes. Suddenly, the group comes across a disemboweled animal hanging between the trees and around it are strange symbols carved into the bark.
But this is a horror film where the characters have actually seen horror films before, and start to think that something is definitely wrong. This is one of the things I praise this film for: the characters actually know when they are in real danger and try their best to run and hide from it, instead of the typical and incredibly stupid decisions people take in other horror films.
As rain begins to pour down and night comes, the group comes across a cabin and decide to take shelter. Phil doesn’t particularly agree with this since the cabin is seriously creeping him out and Dom even jokes about that being the place where they will clearly die. Which may or may not be true (I’ll let you find out)…
The film carries on with the group finding signs of occult activities, while the tension between Luke and the rest of the group builds up. Some of the scenes will remind you of films like The Blair Witch Project, with the carvings on the trees giving you a guess on what happens next.
The trauma of the off-licence shop keeps coming up to haunt Luke, and his memory flashbacks’ shots even mix up with the horror he is experiencing in the woods, which I believe worked quite well. The other characters also have excruciating dreams while on the cabin and wake up in very strange conditions.
I won’t give any more away as I believe this is a film worth seeing.
Facing your demons is one of the lessons this film tries to put out while making us root for Spall’s character to stop self-loathing and help his friends when they need him. Will he redeem himself for his cowardice or hide from this evil force?
Even though this film doesn’t surprise horror fans in any way, it is good at delivering familiar elements in the horror genre. The characters are very credible and the acting is excellent. An unsurprising but solid cinematic piece.