The Ritual – UK, 2017

‘They should have gone to Vegas’

The Ritual is a 2017 British horror feature film directed by David Bruckner (Southbound; V/H/SThe Signal) from a screenplay by Joe Barton (Humans), based on Adam Nevill’s 2012 novel of the same title. It stars Rafe Spall, Rob James-Collier, Arsher Ali and Sam Troughton.

The Imaginarium Productions/eOne Films movie was produced by Jonathan Cavendish, Richard Holmes (Eden Lake) and Andy Serkis (actor in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and sequels; Burke and HareKing Kong; The Cottage).

After a tragic robbery and homicide incident, four British former university friends reunite for a hiking trip in Sweden. However, they encounter a menacing presence in the forest that seems to be stalking them…

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“Authenticity in acting, staging, and scope remains realistic to the point that when plausibility bends for a Lovecraftian turn, the fantasy still seems grounded […] More intense than The Hallow, more dynamic than The Blair Witch Project, and better than most other forest-set films that immediately spring to mind, The Ritual simply sizzles as a traditionally entertaining terror tale told with sharp visual flair.” Ian Sedensky, Culture Crypt

“The monster design is creative. The locations are viscerally remote. The flick hits enough of the right beats and proves that David Bruckner knows how to handle this genre in a variety of ways. The trouble is that this hodgepodge homage to horror tropes never really develops much of its own identity.” Phil Brown, Collider

” …Bruckner builds real excitement and a sense of mounting horror in his heroes’ predicament. He relishes drawing the curtain on moments of momentous strangeness, like an attic filled with wheezing, diminutive homunculi, and the revelation of the monster itself […] The Ritual is one of those frustrating projects where its very conventionality is part of its pleasure whilst provoking the sense it could have amounted to more.” Roderick Heath, This Island Rod

” …the tone shifts from pure horror to action, which inadvertently lessons the tension rather than heightening it. David Bruckner once again makes a case for himself as one of the more talented, confident horror film directors modern cinema has to offer.” Edgar Chaput, Sordid Cinema

“By adding powerful drama and empathetic characters to a familiar formula, Bruckner, Barton, and the whole cast, elevate this woods based horror into something memorable. The strong performances enhance the horror in one of the most terrifying films of the year.” Luke Ryan Baldock, The Hollywood News

“The ending is wholly unexpected and oddly satisfying, though it will likely be polarizing for just those very reasons. But The Ritual is rich, meaty horror that, despite your feelings regarding its twists and turns, offers up a gripping balance of psychological terror and physical revulsion. Your mileage on its monster, though, may vary.” Randall Colburn, Consequence of Sound

“For most of the film the creature is hidden in shadows and obscured in the thickness of the forest. And when we finally do get to see it we find a design that is born from old world Lovecraftian horrors. It’s a very unique looking beast that only ramps up the tension when it’s finally revealed. About the only negative comment I have about The Ritual is that the third act suffers from a bit of slowdown as the film takes a breather to explain what’s going on.” Jason McDonald, Horror-Movies.ca

“Whether the film is truly terrifying or simply scary, that all depends on how you handle creature features […] Nevertheless, The Ritual is a suspenseful horror flick that, although not entirely breaking new ground, deals with its subject matter in a fun, foreboding and stylish way.” Matthew Ritchie, Exclaim!

“The redeeming factors were the visuals – the lighting of the night horror scenes were genuinely spooky and the magnificent views of the landscape, together with the awe-inspiring aerials of the forest in which humans are dwarfed by nature, helped in part to make up for a film that otherwise felt rather long.” Shiroma Silva, Phase 9

” …although the climactic stretch seems to hold promise, The Ritual closes with a dimly-lit third act that’s just as ineffective and underwhelming as everything preceding it – with the film ultimately unable to justify its full-length running time (i.e. it may have worked as one of Bruckner’s V/H/S shorts).” David Nusair, Reel Film Reviews

“Though well-cast and competently written, The Ritual owes its primary effectiveness not so much to story or character per se as to the unsettling atmosphere Bruckner and company have eked out of the forest itself. DP Andrew Shulkind’s impressive lensing often frames the actors dwarfed and dominated by oddly hostile-looking trees whose tops or bottoms we can’t see.” Dennis Harvey, Variety

“The beast itself is the stuff of nightmares and really well created. The cast and acting is fantastic although, script-wise, it is in danger of getting bogged down with quite a few arguments but the suspense is ever present and the overall doomish undercurrent keeps your attention, the setting is truly beautiful and terrifying in equal measures.” Sarah Budd, Horror Screams Video Vault

“Unfortunately, Barton’s script favors repetition rather than innovation, which means seemingly endless scenes of the group trudging through ominous woods, griping at each other and getting increasingly paranoid. The moody atmosphere remains, but the lack of new developments weighs the middle section of the film down.” Joe Lipsett, Bloody Disgusting

“Bruckner, aided by Joe Barton’s brilliantly realistic dialogue, does a fantastic job in highlighting all the right themes, without ever resorting to the facile in order to drive the idea home. Playing with the whole “cabin in the woods” horror genre, mixed with what is generally referred to as “pagan folk horror” a la The Wicker Man, the film manages to install a real sense of unease and genuine terror…” Linda Marric, HeyUGuys

“Sadly, The Ritual is one of those movies in which as things get stranger they get less interesting. The movie lost me about halfway through. I’m still eager to see what Bruckner does next, but this one was a trip he probably shouldn’t have taken.” Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com

“Most of the film just affords glimpses of the antlered, towering woodland predator/deity, but daringly it comes out in the open for the climax and doesn’t seem like a let-down. The Ritual drops hints about what the beast’s worshippers get out of the deal, but leaves enough horribly vague and suggested […] The in-group bantz are well-played by a good British cast, with each of the gang getting a few distinctive bits before the horror starts and then dragged along their own individual road to a gruesome fate when the scary stuff goes into overdrive.” The Kim Newman Web Site

“I’ve had 3 hours of sleep because I can’t stop thinking about how damn haunting it was. My heart was racing, my eyes were wide open, my emotions wilding. And that’s something different about this film, it really delved into the emotional connections between the main characters which just added that much more to their terrifying stories.” Leo, Letterboxd

“Based on a book of the same name, The Ritual offers very little new. Its brevity requires a brisk pace, and the forest is propah moody, some of the bantz fizzes briefly and the actor’s performances are good, breathing life into the cyphers they have to portray. But this is ultimately a movie that will suffice when you’ve exhausted all other options on Netflix.” Dara Higgins, Thumped

“The film manages to get properly creepy at times but ultimately, it’s pretty much exactly the kind of film you’d expect about a group of guys who get lost in the woods and there are no real game-changing elements to be found, just the expected supernatural creature lurking around, some unexplained symbols, nightmares, rituals and witchcraft.” Plain, Simple Tom Reviews

“Bruckner does a fine job with the film’s scare scenes simply by emphasizing rustling leaves, flashlight lens flares, and oh yeah, a giant monster that actually looks creepy. But Barton’s grating dialogue (actual line: “Your ritual begins tonight”), and thin characterizations, make The Ritual the most disappointing kind of bad horror movie: the kind that’s too smart to be this dumb.” Simon Abrams, RogerEbert.com

Interviews:

Director David Bruckner talks to Heather Wixson for Daily Dead

Director David Bruckner talks to Brad Miska for Bloody Disgusting

Main cast:

  • Rafe Spall as Luke – Jurassic World 2; Shaun of the Dead
  • Arsher Ali as Phil
  • Robert James-Collier as Hutch
  • Sam Troughton as Dom – Slumber; Spirit TrapAlien vs. Predator
  • Kerri McLean as Gayle
  • Maria Erwolter as Sara
  • Paul Reid as Robert
  • Francesca Mula as Witch
  • Jacob James Beswick as Fiend

Filming locations:

Romania

Buy novel: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

Release:

The Ritual premiered in September 2017 at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The film was sold to Netflix in September of 2017, and released on the streaming platform on February 9, 2018.

Wikipedia

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