To quote the movie Road Trip, “It’s supposed to be a challenge, that’s why they call it a shortcut; if it was easy it would just be the way.” That’s an okay sentiment in a comedy but in a horror movie, NEVER take the shortcut! Stick to the main route and save your life. Of course if they did that in The Ritual there would be no movie so it’s a bit of a double edged sword. Luckily for the audience they take the shortcut and unleash chaos upon themselves in ways believed unimaginable. This is a camping trip from hell dipped in acid.
The basic idea of a camping trip gone wrong is nothing new but the execution here and added focus on the psychological horror makes The Ritual something worth giving a chance. More than just being scared of a mysterious something in the woods there is the added torment of reliving a traumatic moment the has shaped these four friends. It’s an opening of an old wound and this time it seems it will never close again if it ever did in the first place. In many ways this past event they all share is the motivating factor behind their entire trip into the Norse woods. With such negative connotations fueling the trip, nothing good could possibly come from it. Add in mythical creatures from your deepest darkest nightmares and voila, a horror movie.
Beyond the horror elements this is a film about friendship and how it changes over time. Even before their shared trauma these friends have been naturally drifting apart and the stress of that is motivating their need to go away for an extended period of time. Through their expanding distance they have grown resentment toward each other and with such horrific events happening to them their true feelings begin to rip through what is left of their tattered friendship. This resentment leads to trust issues and when a leader is needed to create some kind of plan nothing positive happens as no one trusts the other well enough to relinquish control in such a high stress situation. This naturally leads to chaotic, irrational behavior and eventual life ending choices.
One particular character is blamed for not stepping in to save their mutual friend from an untimely death. This creates a chasm that only fuels the fear of his insecurity as a man. He knows he should have acted but his fear left him catatonic and utterly useless. This trip mapped out by the devil is his trial by fire as a second chance to prove his bravery and desire to survive. But with the tragic death of his friend constantly replaying in his mind during his waking hours and plaguing his nightmares, he must battle his inner demons as well as the beast literally hunting him and his friends. They are in a battle for their very souls and this scenario becomes one of self survival forcing them to leave the overall survival of the group in a dead pile behind them as they flee in every direction.
The psychological aspect is greatly influencing their decisions as they try to maintain civility and clarity despite the impossibility of their circumstances. What is happening? Who or what is chasing them if anything? Is there any hope for survival? As nightmare and reality begin to meld their decisions become more erratic and nonsensical. They begin to choose things against their own well being for the sake of moving onward rather than being stuck in place out of fear. They begin to suspect that their hunter is planning every step of their fear fueled journey and thus try to circumvent only to find themselves in even more dire straits than before. There is no escape here and the devil itself it seems is hot on their heels.
While not entirely original it possesses a lot of character work that makes even the familiar feel enticing. The unbelievability of witchcraft and mythical creatures leads them into paranoia and with unclear thinking they are essentially meals on wheels. This is about survival; survival of oneself physically and mentally. It is a test of one’s ability to face that which is most horrifying to our own psyches, even if it’s our fear itself that we’re afraid of. Whoever if any survive, they will be changed forever in more ways than one. Needless to say, they will never go camping again. This is a practice of monster horror seeping into psychological terror and melding together to create something unique enough and without question bizarre enough to elicit feelings of pure discomfort and terror. The confusion of it all is what truly fuels the film as a whole. The reality and nightmares are one and the same.
Rated TV-MA For: violence, gore, language throughout, scary imagery
Runtime: 94 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton, Paul Reid
Directed By: David Bruckner
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4.5/ Visuals: 4.5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. Or it’s on Netflix now.
Check out the trailer below:
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