Fear and grief are universal. So what happens when something can exploit both?
A group of friends take a trip to the Scandinavian mountains to honor the death of a friend of theirs, but upon taking a shortcut to the lodge, they soon find themselves in a world of terror, hunted by someone or something.
From the start, The Ritual makes no qualms as to what its tone is and sets everything from the get-go. I describe this film as Silent Hill meets John Carpenter’s The Thing, but in the woods. In a sense, it has the creepy, chilling feel of the Silent Hill franchise such the exploitation of each character’s past and fears with the isolated and paranoia feel of The Thing but not because of the fact that the main cast consists of just men.
Given the performances of said cast with such actors as Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali and Sam Troughton to name a few (for Doctor Who fans, he is the grandson of the 2nd Doctor’s Patrick Troughton), these are a solid group of actors to pick and easy to see why between their solid chemistry. The Cast bounces off each other so well that you’d swear that they were lifelong friends off screen. We can feel their emotions, paranoia, anger, etc. and when things get heavy that really plays into creating a thrilling sense of realism for the film. Not helping matters is Luke (played by Rafe Spall) suffering from survivor’s guilt over a friend dying in the start of the film, a traumatic event that still haunts him and is exploited throughout the film by the monster.
Luke is the main character of the ensemble and with the most development, the last man standing of the film but that’s not to say the rest of the cast gets sidelined (besides suffering nightmares mind you). The other thing David Brucker excels at is utilizing the scenery to the film’s advantage. Especially the use of sound adding to the motif for the first two thirds of the film being the old classic tactic- the scariest thing is what you don’t see. The monster blends into the background so much that you can’t even it’s there tell until that horrifying roar is uttered. It’s often very cleverly hidden that you may find yourself wondering where it is throughout. And when it does strike, it makes for an effective scare including its reveal around the third act when it finally reveals itself.
While I don’t want to give too much away, I do want to give major praise to the design of the monster, which I describe as if H.R. Giger had one last go designing a Lovecraftian monster mixed with European folklore beasts and the the skeleton horse from Haxan.
In addition, Brucker well versed in creating atmosphere. There were times where I felt like the chilled weather was all around me. This even extends to the scenery elevated by cinematography such as the mountain landscape during the opening credits . The film steered away from the cheap tactics of constant jump scares and instead went for a more focused lens on lore of this mysterious monster to create further tension-all of which is helped by the slow pacing of the film.
Being that this film is based on the book of the same name by Adam Revill, some things apparently that didn’t make it to the screen, such as the worshipers of the monster. They are basically these religious zealots who worship this thing so much, that they are dismissive of other religions. They are still in the film, make no mistake but the thing about it is that the aforementioned aspects, I felt they could have given the film adaptation a sharper edge. At the same time, I can understand if the filmmakers didn’t have time to include it in or felt it would had slowed the film’s pacing.
Regardless of how you feel about the third act, The Ritual is worth watching to the end . I’ve always been a proponent of “execution always matters“ and I definitely argue this one nailed its premise about a group of people being hunted by a supernatural force in the woods. Just as good as something like The Evil Dead or Pumpkinhead. I would recommend it.
Verdict: 4 and a half out of 5