Running Time: 94 minutes
Director: David Bruckner
Cast: Rafe Spall, Robert James-Collier, Arsher Ali, Sam Troughton, Paul Reid
After the passing of a close companion, four university friends venture on a Swedish hiking trip in his honour and are subsequently stalked by an unworldly presence.
The Ritual is the screen adaptation of Adam Nevill’s 2011 novel and is the first solo offering from director David Bruckner, most known for his work on V/H/S (2012) and Southbound (2015). The film opens with focus on a close group of university friends who’ve met at their local to discuss their annual trip away.
Initially the group are set up as a gang of likely lads, reminiscing about their crazy nights at university and where their next adventure should be. One of the members suggests the boys should become one with nature and go hiking in Sweden, the idea immediately met with negative reviews.
The film takes a drastic turn, as a visit to the local off-licence afterward, is met with gruesome consequences when their friend Robert (Paul Reid) is caught up in a robbery, ultimately leading to his death. Six months later the remaining four friends – Luke (Rafe Spall), Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Dom (Sam Troughton) and Phil (Arsher Ali) decide to take the ill-fated trip to Sweden to pay homage to their fallen friend.
A sprained ankle, torrential rain and storms lead the four off the beaten track and into the dense Swedish forest where they come across more than they bargained for.
As the storm rages on, the men stumble across an abandoned log cabin and decide that they need to spend the night and continue to find the main track in the morning. During their night’s stay, the four experience vivid nightmares which seemingly display them reliving their worst fears. We are only shown Luke’s experience, which shows him reliving the night that Robert died; which is also the night he hid from the burglars and in cowardice did not save his friend.
The four awake to find they have all experienced nightmares so shocking that they must leave the cabin and the forest immediately. The strangest factor of all is that Luke wakes to find he has been marked with a mysterious scar on his chest.
The film at this point gears into full horror mode; panic ensues within the group and as I’m sure you can guess; the gang are picked off one by one by an unknown person or persons. The suspense at this point quickly begins to drag in the second act, as the film borrows themes from other well-known horror films like The Blair Witch Project, The Wickerman and Deliverance. This can be deemed as disappointing from Bruckner whose previous work in V/H/S stemmed from the likes of The Blair Witch Project but took a clever and original twist on the stereotypical found footage movie.
It’s clear to see that the film is in no way driven by narrative or plot, given the fact it has been adapted from a novel. The saving grace for The Ritual is the clever use of cinematography and visual aids to paint the forest in a devilish light. The juxtaposition between the forest at night and at day, plays on how the mind views things at different times of the day.
The trees in the light display the stunning Swedish countryside but also give an air of suffocation because you are shown the full scale of the trees against the small men. At night, our mind can play tricks with shapes and figures; more so when your lost in a somewhat abandoned forest with absolutely no way out.
As we come into the Autumn and Winter months, cinema-goers will see an influx of horror movies being shown and The Ritual is run of the mill stuff and okay if you enjoy a mildly good scare. Given the fact the film has been recently bought by Netflix for around 5 million dollars; I think it’ll be a hit with some horror fanatics.