Directed by David Bruckner, The Ritual (2017) follows the story of four friends losing their way hiking across Sweden and realizing the dangers surrounding them might be beyond the ordinary.
Anyone can decide if they would want to watch this film by asking a simple question. “Would you be interested in something you’ve definitely seen before but is still executed fairly well?” That’s The Ritual in a nutshell. The movie still deserves a discussion, so I’ll get right to it.
The Ritual is excellent in its atmosphere. Despite the vast wilderness it always feels eerily claustrophobic and that effect is retained throughout. It picks its scare moments well and is not afraid to go completely silent when needed. After all, they are in a secluded forest. There are plenty of genuinely chilling moments and a monster design which alone makes it worth a watch. The film is also extremely efficient with its time not wasting a minute in its 90-minute runtime.
The entire cast gives great performances particularly Sam Troughton and Rafe Spall at the center of group conflicts. A slight lack of purpose and personality in characters is unfortunate, making it hard to care for them. Yet, devoid of the supernatural, just the group dynamics shifting with the deteriorating journey is enough to keep you hooked. Sadly, that also brings me to what is majorly wrong with the film.
What doesn’t work
The final act, although earned, feels like a different movie. The movie starts out as a possible escape from collective repressed trauma and by the end is just a monster movie. It ventures into Nordic mythology which feels offbeat. It explained what I wasn’t interested in and didn’t answer what I was curious about. It’s still entertaining and worth a watch but best keep your expectations in check.
The cinematography feels hit or miss. Watching it on a smaller screen on Netflix was distracting with some nearly pitch-black frames filled with pixels. On the flip side, some sequences are surprisingly filmed in sunlight in a forest that is supposedly filled with fog/mist and experiences heavy rains. Yes, weather can be unpredictable but shots in sunlight feel completely against a setting that’s dark and desolate.
The Ritual (2017) excels at creating a grim atmosphere filled with dread but stumbles by the end, failing to give something meaningful. Its uninspiring third act drags down an exciting ensemble cast and an incredible monster design.