If there’s one thing you can take away from The Ritual it’s this – don’t take a short cut through the woods. However, this is pretty much our only learning from this relatively twist-free horror hike.
Following the story of four friends who take a walking trip to Sweden, the opening sequences bring enough intensity for it to be a promising start. In fairness, the stress levels don’t let up for the first two acts of the film, as the four friends stumble, ever more panicked, deeper and deeper into the woods. Unfortunately, it’s the final act (when things should be ramping up to a bloody climax) where Bruckner takes his foot off the pedal. A loose reveal is poorly explained – whilst the film has done a good job up until now of building up an air of confusion, once the audience is unintelligently told what’s actually going on, the reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype.
Whilst we’re offered an interesting enough exploration of male bravado, The Ritual doesn’t offer much more than this. What is does provide is some amazing cinematography, filmed against the beautiful and eerie backdrop of Romania. Trapped deep in the woods for essentially the entirety of the film, Bruckner makes clever and entertaining use of camera tracking. Throw in some well thought out nightmare sequences, and it quickly becomes a shame that this film never quite lived up to its potential. Sadly, despite a suspenseful build up, Bruckner reveals way too much about our antagonist – and unfortunately, this is an example where your imagination is far worse than the reality.
While The Ritual may not bring anything new to the table, it does offer stress and misery aplenty, meaning that any viewers who are happy with the same old horror clichés certainly won’t feel cheated.
CAST: Rafe Spall, Robert James-Collier, Arsher Ali, Sam Troughton
DIRECTOR: David Bruckner
WRITERS: Joe Barton, Adam Nevill
SYNOPSIS: A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them.