Director: David Bruckner
Screenplay: Joe Barton
Starring: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton
Runtime: 94 Minutes
2017 has been a really great year for horror; the biting satire and commentary of Get Out and The Love Witch, the visceral nastiness and intimacy of Raw and the mainstream blockbuster efforts of IT. Although, that’s not to discredit to efforts of more traditional genre exercises, those films which set out with a set of goals and intentions and for the most part deliver on them.
Case in point, we have British horror The Ritual, an adaptation of Adam Neville’s award-winning 2011 novel of the same name where a group of college friends reunite for a memorial hiking trip in Sweden, whereupon they stray from the path in the woods and are stalked and terrified by a supernatural presence.
That’s basically all that happens as far as the plot is concerned, but it’s the damn fine execution of its premise that leaves the film so satisfying and enjoyable. The storytelling and presentation are dedicated and frank without an ounce of any real irony or postmodern inflection, it’s a straightforward traditional horror film without an ounce of fat on its body.
The added depth to the story comes from the lead character of Luke (Rafe Spall), whose failure to prevent the death of one of their friends in a surprisingly effectual opening prologue scene plants the seeds of guilt and mistrust that threaten to tear the psyches of the already petrified group to pieces. It works as a thematic component come the final act and adds some weight to proceedings, as the true nature of what is really going on takes things in a different direction regarding Nordic folklore and belief systems.
The main cast of four are great – with Rafe Spall delivering some really good work as Luke – and it’s the minor details of interaction that fill in the blanks of some of their characters. Director David Bruckner has worked mainly as a co-director on anthology films, but his direction here is really strong with decent framing, good use of handheld photography and some innovative uses of sets during some of the nightmare sequences. It’ll be really interesting to see what he produces next as a solo filmmaker.
The Ritual won’t change anyone’s life, it wears its influences rather proudly and won’t surprise too many already well versed in the genre, but it’s an effective and very well made picture that gives the audience exactly what they pay for. Effective and engaging, with a creepy atmosphere and sound design along with some strong characters, it’s all you could really ask for from a film of its standard.