The Ritual

500 Days Of Film Reviews Horror Thriller, The Ritual, Starring Rafe Spall

Following the sudden, violent death of their best friend, four young men reunite for a hike through the Scandinavian wilderness. Deep in the black, Nordic forest they find themselves lost in a hell of sinister nightmares and pagan sacrifices. For these ancient woods are home to a malevolent deity which will force them to face the darkness inside themselves.

Is It Any Good?

Alarm bells started ringing early on in The Ritual. Here we have a group of friends who, after a tragedy, decide to go on an adventurous trip only to find themselves lost in an extremely claustrophobic environment. Then, seemingly oblivious to the danger, one of the group mentions the Appalachian Mountains. 


Now, perhaps it is just me but referencing a movie as good as The Descent is risky indeed - especially if you don’t have the ability to come anywhere close to Neil Marshall’s horror classic. However, to be fair to The Ritual, what film does?


Having established its location, the four friends do what all horror stories make friends do - go off trail, taking a ‘shortcut’ through a particularly forbidding forest. Trouble lurks not far behind as they stumble through the trees (yes, like in Blair Witch), find strange, possibly witchy things in the woods (yes, like in Blair Witch) and decide to enter a creepy abandoned house (yes, like in Blair Witch).



However, despite feeling rather derivative, The Ritual kept my interest thanks to the, often funny, dynamic between the group. There is a sense of a history to their friendship and we care about what happens to them - something many horror films fail to achieve.


In addition, director David Bruckner creates an atmosphere full of tension and claustrophobia. By far the scariest thing in The Ritual (more frightening than any of the film's supernatural elements) is the unsettling idea of being lost in a forest. 


Thanks to Andrew Shulkind’s superb cinematography (possibly my favourite aspect of The Ritual) we rarely see the tops of the trees. Their trunks seem endless, packed together almost like jail bars. As the friends become increasingly desperate, so the forest becomes more sinister.


Sadly, having created such effective tension and despite a likeable cast, The Ritual fails to deliver on its potential. The film’s third act descends into the predictably ridiculous with jarring (although not entirely unwelcome) moments of comedy and an ending that fails to satisfy.


Random Observations

The Ritual was adapted from the novel by Adam Nevill and was produced by one Andy Serkis.


Have you seen The Ritual? 


If you have, what did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments section below or come find me on Facebook or Twitter (@500DaysOfFilm)!

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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