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'The Ritual': A Movie Review

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Rekindling my love of horror and thriller movies, television shows, and sharing my thoughts with whoever may read them.

Five English lads gather in a pub to plan a lads holiday.  'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

Five English lads gather in a pub to plan a lads holiday. 'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

Story Summary

Five long-time English lads (Luke, Hutch, Phil, Dom, and Robert) gather in a pub to plan a lads holiday, a "boys trip" if you will. While ideas for exotic locations are being thrown out; Ibiza, Amsterdam, and Tuscany, Robert suggests hiking in Sweden, to which Luke scoffs, "come on, man, let's do something good".

After leaving the pub, the group walks through town continuing their brainstorming session for a trip to which they can all agree. Along the way, Luke stops at a small convenience store for a bottle of vodka, Robert reluctantly joins him. While inside, they see a female store employee who has obvious facial injuries and is clearly in distress. Two men suddenly appear from a back room of the store with another man, demanding more money. Luke hides behind a nearby shelf while the two men, now noticing Robert, demand his money and jewelry. He gives them the money and his watch, but when he refuses to give up his wedding ring, things go very bad. Throughout the scene, Luke is still hidden from the men's view but is witnesses to Robert's death.

Next, we find the remaining four men, six months later, hiking King's Trail in Sweden; taking the boys trip that Robert had suggested in the pub. Along the way, Hutch and Dom's chat about Norse mythology gives us a little hint at what's to come.

Arsher Ali as Phil and Rob James-Collier as Hutch pour one out in honor of their friend, Robert, in 'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

Arsher Ali as Phil and Rob James-Collier as Hutch pour one out in honor of their friend, Robert, in 'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

After erecting a small memorial for Robert atop a hill, it becomes obvious that some people within the group are angry about Robert's death and hold Luke responsible. This immediately creates tension within the group that, to me, doesn't seem overly close, to begin with.

Following Dom suffering an injury, the group decides to cut their hiking time by taking a more direct path to a resort, going through the center of the forest where they encounter a slain elk, "a fresh kill" as Luke calls it, and a slew of Runic letters carved into trees and Luke hears noises coming from the surrounding woods. A sudden thunderstorm hits and the group seeks shelter in an abandoned, dilapidated cabin.

Luke is increasingly unsettled when he hears noises outside the cabin. Concerned by this he wants to continue their journey, but Hutch reminds him that the storm is too much for them to continue on. Inside they find more Runic letters, hanging like Christmas ornaments and a shrine of sorts upstairs, to which Phil replies, "that's witchcraft." This is where the supernatural element of the story really starts to kick in, giving the men nightmares, bringing their biggest fears to light and making them relive those moments.

Understandably shaken, the men are quick to pack first thing in the morning and continue on through the forest in hopes of reaching the lodge before nightfall. The men are immediately at odds, however, when they can't agree on the path they should take; Dom wants to follow a path he's spotted near the cabin, Luke wants to go back the way they came and Hutch wants to continue on through the forest, the proposed shortest route.

Rafe Spall as Luke, leads the group through the forest in 'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

Rafe Spall as Luke, leads the group through the forest in 'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

Night closes in quickly and the men are once again forced to camp for the night. The nightmares continue and the noises in the woods get closer; branches snapping under heavy footsteps, loud breathing and a low guttural purr followed suddenly by an animalistic screech and the screams of a man.

The men become increasingly desperate to reach the safety of the lodge all while avoiding the unknown creature terrorizing the forest. But now their nightmares have now crossed over into the waking hours of the day, confusing and tormenting them along the way.

When people appear and they suddenly feel a small bit of hope of being safe, things get worse, much worse. Then, they learn the harsh truth; that they are now the center of a ritual to worship the creature, and one of them must be sacrificed.

Main Cast / Characters

Rafe Spall

Luke

Rob James-Collier

Hutch

Arsher Ali

Phil

Sam Troughton

Dom

Paul Reid

Robert

Behind the Scenes

Joe Barton

Screenplay by

Adam Nevill

Based on Novel by

David Bruckner

Director

Jonathan Cavendish

Producer

Richard Holmes

Producer

Andy Serkis

Producer

Mark Towns

Editor

The Imaginarium

Production Company

eOne Films

Production Company

eOne Films (UK)

Distributed by

Netflix

Distributed by

Favorite Character

Robert James-Collier as Hutch in 'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

Robert James-Collier as Hutch in 'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

I really liked the Hutch character. He's the most optimistic of the group. He tries to keep the peace when tempers flare, but he's not a pushover. He's also the only one who tells Luke upfront that Robert's death was not his fault. When the trip takes an unfavorable turn, he's the one who works to keep the group united and on the same course.

Memorable Quotes

Some of my favorite quotes in this movie are simple off-hand comments that are said almost under the breath, for example, Phil squints his eyes during a group selfie in the forest, then says, "Yeah, yeah. Four twats in a forest."

And again it's Phill who mutters, "Well, this is clearly the house we'll get murdered in" after entering the abandoned house in the forest.

Runic letters carved into trees Night closes in 'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

Runic letters carved into trees Night closes in 'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

Raves

If you like movies that put you on edge and feel the need to scan the background of nearly every scene for something, anything, this will do it. And the still shots they use when the music is turning ominous and there are sounds of branches snapping in the distance, made me crane my neck closer to the screen, widen my eyes and study every point within the shot in hopes of catching a glimpse of whatever could be hidden out there.

I loved the creature sounds; the deep purr-like growl made my skin crawl. The music design in the film was also very well done. Unlike my recent viewing of The Open House, it didn't overpower the scenes.

Nitpick

The first real glimpse of the forest creature in 'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

The first real glimpse of the forest creature in 'The Ritual' (2018), a Netflix Original.

While I like the idea of mythical creatures existing in real life, and the idea of worshiping these creatures is very intriguing, the creature itself was a bit of a disappointment. For the most part, I thought the creature design was done well. Knowing that the Jötunn gods are not always large and grotesque, I'm glad they opted to make this one more ominous in stature. With that being said, the human element of the creature just didn't sit right. For me, giving it any human qualities took something away from the creature, decreasing the overall fear factor, but then again, that would go with the "grotesque" aspect of some Jötunn creatures.

Would I Recommend?

This movie had some great moments, some are a little reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project, one of my least favorite horror/thriller films, but those were few and far between. Overall, I enjoyed the film and I applaud them for its use of sound. The creature sounds, the screams in the distance, the cracking of branches as the creature walked through the forest was, for lack of a better term, awesome.

On the Buy/Theater/Rent/Netflix scale, this is one that I would see in the theater for sure.

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© 2018 Veronica