• James Harvey

Film Review - The Ritual - 2017

Title: The Ritual

Format: Netflix Language: English Released: 2017

Director: David Bruckner

Starring: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton

A British horror film from the director, David Bruckner, known mainly for his ‘Amateur Night’ segment of the found footage film, ‘V/H/S’ and with a cast that is a tour-de-force of British actors. Quietly released and snatched up by Amazon, you’ll be forgiven if, like me, you had never heard of this film. I found it by flicking through the horror section and sighing deeply at all the crap there, finally picking this one due to the actors, boy, I’m glad I did!

Starting with a boy’s night out down the local, you are quickly and cleverly introduced to the characters you are going to spend the next couple of hours with. While discussing what they should do for a lad’s holiday, you learn in just a few minutes, their quirks, their thoughts and how they live their lives. Yet, don’t get to comfortable, as an incident occurs very near the beginning of the film and the holiday is somewhat defaulted to a hike in the Alps.

It’s here that the film starts to shine, the ‘middle’ part of the film, sets up the now changed dynamics of their relationship, as well as introduces a new character, in the form of the vast wilderness of the mountains and forests that surround this band of brothers. That and the good old lousy weather.

From here we follow them as they hike down the mountain in order to return to their hotel a day or so away. Through the pitfall of hiking and surviving the great outdoors, even if they aren’t really in that much danger, we are lured into a false sense of security about what this film is really about. All the while a growing sense of dread starts to sneak over both the party and the viewer as their fortunes get worst by the minute. Then they decide to abandon the path and take a short cut through a forest, because it wouldn’t be a horror film if they didn’t do the worse thing you can possible do, I mean didn’t their parents read them ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ as a child?

Up until this moment, you have invested your time and belief in this group of men, learnt to love or hate them, relate to some or become annoyed at some. By some I mean Dom (he does redeem himself later in the film). It is this rapport that Bruckner then uses against you in the latter half of the film. When lost, soaked to the skin and just all round pissed off with the whole thing, they find an old hut in the forest, that they decide to stay in overnight, well that was another massive mistake.

All the way through this film, in the background, Bruckner, has inserted little things that are just a wee bit off, things that don’t normally sit right, slowly eating away in the back of your mind, opening up questions without you knowing why you are asking them. This is why this film works so well, it gets under your skin and slowly but surly starts to itch before you break out in a full-on fever as the events on screen turn to shit for this group of friends.

Introducing you to a series of weird and damn right strange yet believable events, we start to find out something else is in these woods, and I’m not on about the birds in the tree. Taking a leaf from pagan folklore, the men are stalked by some unknown and unfriendly force. Saying anything else would ruin it for you so I will wrap this review up by saying that the entire film is a fantastic tale, on par with the old Brothers Grimm stories.

Well-made and brilliantly acted, it is yet another shinning beacon in the revival of the horror genre, where the story is more important than cheap jump scares and rivers of blood, which are both fine, if the story is solid, and they fit nicely into it.

It’s not a slow-paced film but does have that slow burn vibe and is another horror you really need to watch, alongside films such as ‘Get Out’ and ‘Hereditary’. Long may this reincarnation of my beloved horror genre continue in the hands of people like David Bruckner.

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