Main cast: Rafe Spall (Luke), Arsher Ali (Phil), Robert James-Collier (Hutch), Sam Troughton (Dom), Kerri McLean (Gayle), Maria Erwolter (Sara), Paul Reid (Robert), Francesca Mula (The Witch), and Jacob James Beswick (The Fiend)
Director: David Bruckner
Luke, Phil, Hutch, Don, and Robert are all good buddies that go way back, and it was all good until Rob was killed in a robbery. Luke was there, but he managed to hide himself and couldn’t do anything as Rob was killed by the thieves. He will always blame himself for Rob’s death, although his other friends assure him that there was nothing he could have done to help Rob. Still, Rob’s last wish when they got together was for all of them to go hiking along the Kungsleden in the Sarek National Park in northern Sweden. Six months after Rob’s funeral, the remaining foursome decide to embark on such a trip in Rob’s memory.
Oops, you know how it is with creepy woods in horror movies. Let’s just say that Rob will soon have company in wherever he is.
The Ritual is one of those hoity-toity horror movies that takes its time to build up characters, flesh out their interactions with one another, and so forth with only the title as some kind of foreshadowing that this is going to be another “idiots in the woods, stalked by murderous hillbilly-type people” movie. Those who are less impatient may end up checking the time and wondering whether the fun is ever going to start. Other people may find the dramatic aspects of the movie interesting enough to keep watching, perhaps only looking at the time now and then.
Then the actual horror parts begin, and well… things feel sort of a let down then. You see, I fall into the latter category of viewers, although to be honest, I think the cast elevated the material. The guys are stereotypical sorts, and it’s easy to use one’s knowledge of horror movie archetypes to know whom the last one standing will be. Still, the cast is solid, and while I may not care too much about the characters, I am intrigued enough to want to know what will happen to them.
The horror aspects of the movie, however, are even more derivative than the characters themselves. Worse, everything dumb that one can do in these men’s shoes, well, watch and try not to cringe as these men tick off every item on the dumb-dumb checklist. I’d think the movie would not waste time building up the characters only to make them all idiots in the end, but that’s what happens, and I don’t know what the people behind the movie are thinking.
As I’ve said, the acting is pretty good for a modestly-budgeted flick like this, and for a long while I feel like I’m going to reach someplace good with the characters in this movie. Alas, it eventually becomes some try-hard city dudes versus wilderness monstrous folks thing, and worse, this has been done far better in cheaper B-grade films that this one is supposedly a cut above. Talk about a huge wasted opportunity.