Wild Terror: Our Review of ‘The Ritual’

Posted in Movies, Netflix, TIFF 2017, What's Streaming? by - February 09, 2018
Wild Terror: Our Review of ‘The Ritual’

Four male friends hiking through uncharted woods serves plenty of terrifying potential in The Ritual. A promising set up, to which we first watch unfold a foundational traumatic accident that serves to underscore what comes, along with important characterizations leads to much more effective horror elements. We‘ve the emotional and mental composed of paranoia and fear; the existential as our men are seemingly hopelessly lost in the woods, and the tangible in the form of  murderous cult of primitive origins that worships something.

When one member of a quintet of longtime and now middle-aged buddies dies a tragic death – and blame is placed as what-ifs are pondered – the remaining group decides to carry on their vacation plans in his honour. The fallen’s suggestion was a trek through the northern Swedish mountainside, and unfortunately for the men, not Ibiza. Their vacation would have turned out quite differently, and probably not as viscerally enjoyable for the viewer.

The wilderness means no cell-phone signals, limited provisions, and only one way to get home safely – do it yourself. It’s not long before they are halfway through their journey when one injuries an ankle, and a decision to make a beeline through rarely traveled thicket and not the circuitous well-worn path is made. It is there where, not surprisingly, the horrors slowly begin, as they find curiously massacred animals, a nightmarish cabin, and that aforementioned something – something big. But that reveal has to wait – but you better believe it delivers.

The Ritual, like the best of horror films, triumphs because of its execution. Thoroughly tense and utterly uncomfortable, the film does well enough to make us care about those involved, invested in their plight and sympathetic to their beliefs, fears, and decisions. Just as importantly, the viewer is long left uncertain of just what exacting is happening and what’s to come. There is a tricky and effective balance between hiding what is going on, waiting enough time, and delivering both a logical and terrifying revelation.

It’s not at all original, and having it be an all-male adventure makes it rather uninspired and predictable in terms of the dynamic, but the terror still exists. It leans heavily upon the guilt angle, which adds a welcome layer of investment, while maintaining the horror even after the mystery is disclosed. Taut from the start and creepy throughout, The Ritual powers through ruggedly and decidedly to a horrific force of ending.

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Anthony is a lover of a good story in any form, on any subject. Tirelessly navigating filmdom, he is equal parts an unbridled idealist and stubborn curmudgeon, trying to strike a balance between head and heart when it comes to pop culture. He pens stories about television, music, the environment, lifestyles, and all things noteworthy and peculiar.