The Ritual Review

The Ritual - International Poster #1

If horror films taught us anything it’s that the woods is never a good place to get lost in. We learned that in The Blair Witch ProjectFriday the 13thCabin in the Woods and others. There’s good reason to be afraid of the woods. You can easily get lost and there are things in the woods that you may not know exist. That’s the premise of David Bruckner’s latest film, The Ritual. Is The Ritual a good entry into the horror forest genre or is it another lame duck entry?

The Ritual had the potential to be a smart and captivating horror film. But what we get is a decent yet creepy horror film. It’s not the best but it’s a journey that’s worth taking.

The Ritual follows four friends who go on a journey to honor their fallen friend in the Scandinavian countryside. When one of them gets injured, they decide to take a shortcut through the forest. While there they find themselves lost in a hell of nightmares and witchcraft.

The Ritual - Sam Troughton, Rafe Spall, Robert James-Collier, and Arsher Ali

Hands down, The Ritual is one of the creepiest horror films to come out of 2018, so far. The most effective part of The Ritual is the way it psychologically devolves our characters. That is to say that the unknown is a scary thing. As the film wears on, you don’t know whether the entity haunting our characters is real or not.

To his credit, director David Bruckner goes the traditional route with the way he made his film. There’s no shaky camera work here ala Blair Witch. Bruckner also succeeds in building up the lore of the monster until his eventual reveal.

That’s where Andrew Shulkind’s cinematography comes into play. Shulkind’s use of natural lighting in dark scenes is very reminiscent of 2015’s The Witch. Not to mention, Sweden’s mountainous backwoods are shot with such malice and dread. It’s the kind of cinematography that’ll make you be in awe of the wood and be afraid of it at the same time.

But what it succeeds in its psychological mind games, it fails in other story elements. Luke’s subplot could’ve added to the psychological baggage of our main character. Survivor’s remorse is a powerful thing. Yet the filmmakers don’t do much with this story element. It doesn’t really add to the horror in any significant way. Which is a shame because it could’ve been a good exploration of grief and coping. In addition, the characters don’t really develop throughout the film. Other than Luke, no one else seems to have a purpose or a backstory to them.

The Ritual - Sam Troughton, Rafe Spall, and Arsher Ali

That doesn’t mean that the cast doesn’t have good chemistry, though. The actors are believable as long-time friends. It’s this chemistry that’ll make you attach yourself to these characters. Primarily because these characters will remind you of you and your friends. The journey of these characters might even remind you of you and your friends on a wilderness journey.

Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, and Sam Troughton do a great job of psychologically fading away. Every one of them goes through hell within the forest, and everyone plays it off well. Notably, Rafe Spall carries the film with his significant subplot. Although the film goes nowhere with it, Spall provides a nuanced performance because of it. The incident bothers him immensely and it shows in his performance.

Overall, The Ritual is a decent horror film that’ll bring you down an incredibly creepy journey through the malicious woods of Sweden. It may not perfect or the best horror film of the past year, but definitely worth a watch during the dog days of early February.

Rating: 3/5 atoms

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