Matt Adcock reviews The Ritual (15), starring Rafe Spall
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 are being hunted through the forest wilderness by something terrifying and the body count starts to rise.
The Ritual is an effective survival horror which takes tropes from films such as The Blair Witch Project and The Wicker Man and mixes them up with some nasty Nordic mythology. The acting is strong for a horror and the build up works really well. Each of the friends have 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.
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 short cut 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 but 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.
If you go down to the woods today, you’ll be both scared and entertained but might not make it out alive…