The Ritual, 2017.
Directed by David Bruckner.
Starring Rafe Spall, Robert James-Collier, Arsher Ali, Sam Troughton and Paul Reid.
A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them.
After their friend is tragically killed during a robbery, 4 of his friends Luke (Spall), Hutch (James-Collier), Phil (Ali) and Dom (Troughton) embark on a hike in the Swedish wilderness to honour their friend. Along the way they encounter something strange in the woods that begins to hunt them.
The Ritual is a typical British horror film and by that I mean that there are a ton of laughs to start with, characters who you genuinely empathise with and some legitimate scares. Our main character is Luke (Spall) who is dealing with his guilt over his friend’s demise, something that haunts him all the way through the film. Spall has proven himself to be a chameleon-like actor and although Luke isn’t overly complex, it’s a strong performance. All of the main cast are likeable and most importantly they feel real. As the horror ramps up you do care about what happens to them and whether they will make it out of the woods and also more importantly, what the hell is going on in there?
Director David Bruckner uses the landscape to great effect whilst building tension. The woods are a believable maze and even the type of tree that surrounds the group is sinister. There are numerous long hanging shots of characters staring into the trees looking for any sign of what’s stalking them. These still shots are left for a long time and allows the audience to start imagining what’s out there as well as seeing quick glimpses of what’s stalking the group. The first half of The Ritual is edge of your seat stuff and there are a few moments that feel like top class horror. An eerie score from Ben Lovett is perfect and Bruckner doesn’t rely on too many jump scares to frighten you.
The problem with The Ritual comes in its second half. After expertly freaking you out, its finale feels anti-climactic. The reveal of what has been stalking them is quite good and unlike most horror films where you see what’s been hunting people and are disappointed with a shed load of bad CGI; what you see is disturbing and thought-provoking. The issue is that the finale plays out by the numbers and there are no real surprises. It’s a shame as up until this point the film is inventive, visually stunning and scary. That’s not to say the ending is bad, but just that it doesn’t live up to the build-up in the first act that’s been so delicately crafted.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★