Dir. David Bruckner
Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)
Read the newspaper version of this review: The Observer
“It wasn’t your fault, mate…”
This is the unhappy tale of what happens following the untimely death of a nice guy called Rob (Paul Reid) whose pal, Luke (Rafe Spall), hid rather than stepped up to try and save him. Ridden with guilt Luke joins his other friends - Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Phil (Arsher Ali) and Dom (Sam Troughton) on a hike in Sweden in memory of Rob. But it’s not long before the group is being hunted through the forest wilderness by something terrifying and the body count starts to rise.
"not a happy shopper"
The Ritual is an effective survival horror which takes tropes from films such as The Blair Witch Project and The Wicker Man, mixes them up with some nasty Nordic mythology. The acting is surprisingly strong for a horror and the build-up works really well. Each of the friends has their own demons but together they are a good bunch of guys who bring some quality believable banter and plenty of laughs before they start to come apart (literally in some cases). Having real empathy with the protagonists makes you care about them when things start to get bad – and the nerve-shredding slow burn build up is expertly handled.
"what could go wrong?"
Director David Bruckner has a great eye for visuals and some of the Swedish landscape cinematography is just stunning. The friends I saw this with were suitably freaked out as the group stumble upon sinister warning signs after taking an ill-advised shortcut through a creepy forest.
When the running and screaming starts it delivers a fascinatingly twisted scenario and the plot shifts from a tense stalk n jump horror to full-on crazy Nordic ‘pagan-em-up’. It’s a shame that the ending – however unsettling feels a bit rushed and silly after the excellent work that has gone before.
Even as the friends find themselves in a horrific life or death situation the chemistry and group dynamics hold firm elevating what could have been a very average horror effort to something that is really worth checking, as long as you have the stomach for grisly goings-on.
The ‘big bad’ in the film is something that hasn’t been seen on film before either which is a plus, but the trim running time means that there isn’t enough bridge from the hidden killer to the ‘well that’s just freaky’ monster mash.
"shock and awe"
If you go down to the woods today, you’ll be both scared and entertained but might not make it out alive…
Out of a potential 5, you have to go with a Darkmatters:
(3.5 - Beware the woods at night... scary stuff)
Awesomeness öööö – Some very effective chills on offer
Laughs ööö – Nice lads banter
Horror öööö – Icky and grim
Spiritual Enlightenment öö - Would you die for a friend?