The Ritual is a 2018 film recently released by Netflix to stream directed by David Bruckner about a group of friends reuniting to pay respects for a friend who had recently died by going to vacation in the location he wanted to visit. After someone in the group is injured they must find a quicker route to get home and make the decision to walk through a forest that is filled with reminders of their past. The film stars Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Coulier, and Sam Troughton.
Starting this movie I half expected a bad attempt at making a good horror movie filled with jump scares due to the fact that any horror movie I ever decide to watch on Netflix usually offers nothing more than that but this one really did much more than what was expected. I must start with the story because it was excellent. Anyone who reads my reviews will know that I love ambiguity. I love not knowing what can give me a concrete answer. I love a movie that keeps me wondering what is really at the core of it all. This movie does give us a clear explanation by the time the credits roll but we learn practically nothing for the first two acts of this film. We are just as in the dark as the characters that we are following in this film and I absolutely loved it. The story is excellent here, it does not rely on any cheap jump scares and it really does a great job with the structure and telling of the story.
The characters in this movie are something I absolutely adored. We learn a lot about them and the kind of people they are without giving us any cheesy dialogue. We learn about how they feel and the kind of people they are by pure conflict. They’re angered, they’re tired, they want to leave this forest. I think anyone in their position would be just as aggravated and maybe show their true colors but with us watching this and accompanying these characters on screen it really makes for an effective way to learn about these characters through pure conflict. I’d say there is two characters we learn about more than the other two, and when you see it (if you see it) you’ll know exactly which two I’m talking about, but overall the characters in this movie are very well fleshed out and it’s quite obvious how they all feel and how things are probably going to play out by the end of the film.
I must mention the horror in this film because it is spectacular. I do not like horror movies that are made just for a few cheap scares that’ll make you bounce out of your seat. I like horror that is crafted by tension and conflict within a story. For me that is real horror, you need to able to feel that tension building not only visually but emotionally. This film carries real, unbroken tension that horrified me on many occasions. What I loved the most about it is that there is sort of a character (I will not spoil it) that is shown through most of the second act and is shown completely in the third that is shown throughout the film that is absolutely terrifying. What this film did with this character was brilliant and reminded me a lot of Jaws. Why was it that this character was so scary? They built tension with it. For the entirety of the scenes that take place in the forest this character is teased over and over again and never shown clearly until we are at the upmost climactic scene of the film. This was done extremely well and was extremely effective.
Now, this film is not perfect but it was one of the better horror movies I’ve seen in the past 2 months. The ending to this movie fell on somewhat of a flat note. Nothing felt resolved and nothing felt like it should have ended in the way that it did. If I were to fix anything specific it would be the ending. Another thing that didn’t really fall flat was something that showed up towards the end that I had completely forgot about. Throughout most of the time they’re in this forest these characters see things that haunt their memories, for one character in particular he is reminded constantly of something that happens in the beginning of the movie. For the majority of the second act he’s haunted by it, being constantly reminded of it, when we hit the third act of the film they don’t show any of it, but regardless, the climax is building, tensions are rising and I had completely forgot about it and then, bam. It shows up. So if anything it felt like that could’ve been left out or presented differently because the timing on it was awful.
Overall The Ritual is a truly gripping, horrifying film with a great story, great characters and real horror. I guess directors think real tension is hard to do in horror movies when cheap scares are just as effective (not). I highly recommend this movie to anyone looking for a good horror movie. I give The Ritual a 7.5/10.
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