A thick Swedish forest looms ahead; dark and foreboding. Four hikers on a boy’s trip decide to cut through it, veering off the path, to get help for their injured mate. Spoiler: this turns out to be a very bad idea. Like the promotional tagline warned; they should have gone to Vegas.
The Ritual is based on the novel by Adam Nevill. It’s the sort of book that plants deep roots into your head that won’t let go. The sort of book that makes you think; “someone should really make this into a film.”
And someone did.
Director David Bruckner (V/H/S) does a killer job creating a genre film of the ancient-Nordic-folk-horror variety. He excels at creating glimpses of things that may or may not be there, unseen things darting between the branches. You’ll find yourself nervously squinting at a wall of trees along with the protagonist.
At first, the bad omens occur in the form of a gutted deer dangling from a tree, then come creepy carvings and a Wicker-Man style twig effigy. But these are nothing compared to the true evil lurking deeper into the shadows.
As the intensity of their situation increases, the already rocky relationship between the men becomes more and more strained. They panic and lose their grip on reality, while we the audience clap our hands in glee from the sheer horror of it all.
You almost don’t want to know what’s stalking them; there’s a wonderful sense of building dread that gets somewhat tarnished when the cause of their distress is finally revealed. This is where the film loses its footing, and the conclusion won’t knock your socks off either.
Not every genre film has to be ‘clever.’ The Ritual proves that when done well, there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned, straight-up scary story.
- Ellin Williams