Film (Re)View – The Ritual

I got to see this movie early as part of the Scream Unseen run by Odeon Cinemas, whereby you get to see a horror movie ahead of its release date. I was pretty excited, as the trailer looked quite chilling.

I have to say though, that this is definitely an example of where the film-makers should NOT have shown you the ‘monster’, as it completely ruined the film for me. What they created was nothing like what I had imagined, not that my mind had really dwelled on what it was; I just know it wasn’t what it turned out to be.

Up until this point though, this was an excellent movie. It centred on a group of friends – Luke, Phil, Hutch and Dom – who have gone on a lad’s hiking holiday to Sweden in memory of their friend Rob, who was brutally (and I mean brutally) murdered in a convenience store in London. Luke is blamed for Rob’s death as he did nothing to defend his friend.

Dom, the whiner of the group, falls and twists his knee resulting in them having to take a ‘short-cut’ through the forest. They haven’t been walking long before they start to see things that really should not be there – a deer flayed high up in a tree, for example. On edge, the friends seek shelter in a tumbledown house, which is home to a headless straw like man, clearly some kind of alter. It is during the night that they are all visited by something strange which sets them all on edge and sets the path to their downfall.

To me, whatever visited them showed them their greatest fears, or what the most current fear was in their mind. For Luke it was the fact he did nothing to save his friend and so was constantly shown this scene.

The forest is a great place to set this kind of psychological horror film. Forests are the places people go to find peace and tranquility, to be at one with nature. As such, by definition, you are isolated from the rest of the world, cocooned in the silence afforded by the trees. The dense growth of the trees numbs your senses to the point that you have no idea where you are or which direction to go in. Hutch, the sensible one in the group, has a compass and insists they go South West as that is the route shown on the map. Dom, the more headstrong of the group, rebuffs this idea and marches off along the visible path, rather than listen to reason; a mistake they all pay for.

This film could teach the makers of the Blair Witch Project (original one) a lot about how to keep an audience engaged and afraid. Throughout their trek through the woods, you are shown glimpses of what is tailing them, you hear animalistic howls, you see the flayed victims. Suffice it to say, your senses are on heightened alert as the terror grips you; you are just waiting for the horror element. Unfortunately, for me, this didn’t deliver. I am of the opinion that film-makers should NEVER show a creature that they have made up as it will NEVER be what people imagined and this is what breaks the spell of the film and turns a great horror movie into one that is ‘okay’.

I won’t tell you any more of what happens as it would give it away. I would encourage you to go and see it as it is, for the most part, very good. I would, however, urge you to cover your eyes when the ‘monster’ is revealed so it doesn’t spoil it for you!

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