Synopsis – A group of old college friends reunite for a trip to a forest in Sweden, Northern Europe, but encounter a menacing presence there stalking them – The Ritual.
Director: David Bruckner
Released – 2017
Six months on from the untimely death of one of their group, four old friends from University journey from the UK to the Sarek National Park in northern Sweden with the aim of hiking the route their friend suggested the night he died, honouring his memory in the process.
However, after hiking into the wilderness for a couple of days, one of the group trips over and manages to injure himself, with the group the choosing that rather than trying to continue following the trail, hiking through the woods in the hope of coming across the hope of medical attention was the better option, but rather than leading to their salvation, the groups choose to trek through the woods bring increased uneasiness, strange sights and creepy sounds, leaving them in the middle of nowhere with darkness on the horizon and the only place to stay, a dilapidated former hunters shack decorated with pagan symbols and housing a wooden effigy shaped like a headless human torso. This is when things really went from bad to worse.
Going into this movie, I was aware that there was a British indie horror film that had been gaining buzz from the festival scene and that it had been picked up by Netflix for a worldwide release, but at the same time, I knew to be wary of expecting it to be good as the hype suggested after all the horror genre has a habit of generating expectations and going on to disappoint people, especially many of the films that happen to be about a group of friends in the woods, luckily for me all of these apprehensions were unfounded and the early buzz turned out to be right.
The trailer doesn’t do much to suggest much difference from many of the films that have come before, leading you to expect a rehash of all the other woodland based horror films and to be fair it does contain a few scenes in this in the film that have been done before, but to be fair this is somewhat unavoidable when there have been so many films about people getting lost in the woods and coming across something they regret, but mostly The Ritual tries to separate itself from the rest, using regrets and tension masterfully to create a growing anxiety both in the group and audience alike, something that was partially helped out by some great sound mixing.
Running throughout the film is the feeling of something not quite right bubbling just below the surface, not just the unseen forces hunting the group but also within the group themselves, all of whom are dealing with the death of their friend differently, but the longer the film goes you can tell that something has changed, where once there was friendship there is now blame, regret and ager, all of which is driving a wedge between the friends and causing them to no longer be as close as they once were, now just trying to get through the trip in honour of their lost companion, bottling up what’s inside until something forces them to breaking point.
Now the most important part of any genre film isn’t how good it looks (which it does) or how it sounds, but how scary it ends up being to the viewer and although you could argue the film sits somewhere between horror and thriller, but much the same as The Witch (2016) and The Babadook (2014) the film successful straddles the line between the two genres and contains enough moments of terror to leave the audience scared.
Overall, The Ritual is a more than solid horror movie, which more than filled my expectations in both qualities, scares and homages to some of the best woods based horror flicks, namely The Blair Witch Project (1999), The Wicker Man (1973) and Evil Dead (1981).