A 2017 British horror film directed by David Bruckner and written by Joe Barton. The Ritual is a familiar but effective horror, one that makes use of its wonderful setting & impressive cast. It is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Adam Nevill and stars Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, and Sam Troughton.
The move beings with a group of five friends discussing locations for possible holidays. Luke (Rafe Spall) is particularly frustrated by some of the ideas especially when the idea for hiking in Sweden comes up.
On their way home, Luke and Rob (Paul Reid) stop an off-licence but accidently interrupt a violent robbery resulting in Rob’s death.
Six months later, the four remaining friends have made the trip to Sweden, hiking the Kungsleden (King’s Trail) in Sarek National Park. They’ve done this to honour their late friend’s memory something that haunts Luke seeing as he hid leaving Rob on his own.
Dom (Sam Troughton) has a fall injuring his knee & making it difficult to walk so Hutch (Robert James-Collier) suggest a shortcut through the thick woods. A shortcut that would half the time it should take them to get to their hotel.
Bad idea, obviously.
In the woods they come across runes craved in tress & a gutted animal suspended in the trees. Night falls & the rain hits hard so they seek shelter in an abandoned and run-down cabin they find. Upstairs though they discover an altar with a wooden effigy & that night all four suffer intense nightmares.
Disturbed by what happened the foursome set about leaving the forest but something is out there. Something that is stalking the group & causing tempers to fray resulting in some unfortunate revelations about blame and guilt.
For three-quarters of its run-time, The Ritual is a smart, spooky & atmospheric horror. One that builds anticipation and leaves you with a sense of dread. A lot of this comes from the location, a beautiful but oppressive place and the excellent cast. Special mention has to go to Rafe Spall who delivers a masterful performance as a haunted & guilty man.
The build is smart and while it plays out pretty much as you’d expect it doesn’t stop it being any less exciting.
Where it trips up is in its final quarter, one that answers the questions but not to a satisfying conclusion. What initially is a ‘less is more’ approach changes to an ‘in your face’ finale. It’s a real shame as it just doesn’t hold up although Spall’s refusal to bow is exciting.
Then the film just ends. Just like that. It’s a real blemish on what is a good horror film & leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Does that mean it’s not worth watching? Absolutely not. For large portions it’s an effective & visually pleasing film, one that isn’t delivering freshness but is a highlight of what modern horror can produce.