THE RITUAL. (2017) BASED ON THE NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME BY ADAM NEVILL. DIRECTED BY DAVID BRUCKNER. STARRING RAFE SPALL, ARSHER ALI, ROBERT JAMES-COLLIER AND SAM TROUGHTON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I loved this one, a genuinely spooky folk horror set in rural Sweden but filmed in Romania. It’s kind of like THE BLAIR WITCH, but with adult males instead of excitable and impressionable teenagers.
The effect of this was to make the film’s concept even more scary, I thought, because when adult males are fleeing in terror from something, then you damn well better flee too, lol, ’cause it means that something bad is coming.
So, we’ve got our four lads anyway, Luke (Rafe Spall), Hutch, Phil and Dom, all proper English blokes who’ve been mates since college and who still try to keep up with each other and with their heavy laddish boozing, even though they all seem to have wives and kids at home.
They’re planning a lads’ holiday when we first meet them. They’re even mentioning Ibiza as a possible destination, which is a bit ridiculous as the kids who go to Ibiza would all regard these four lads as pipe-and-slippers-category auld fellas. Go home to your cocoa, Grandad, type of thing.
In the end, the lads go to Sweden on a very out-of-character outdoorsy hiking holiday, to honour one of their original five who has died a horrible death in an off-licence hold-up.
Luke, who was involved in the same hold-up, is suffering from terrible survivors’ guilt, and he’s also guilty because his own instinct to survive saw him not coming to the aid of his chum. The remaining lads seem also to be harbouring a grudge against Luke for not saving their mate, so some of these resentments may come vomiting out of them later.
They leave a touching memorial to their fallen comrade on a rain-washed Swedish hillside, then they promptly get lost in the forest, miles from civilisation, because they think that cutting through the woods for a short-cut on the way to the lodge they’ve booked into is a good idea.
Come again? A short-cut through the deserted woods in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night, a good idea…? That’s bound to turn out well, eh, fellow horror fans…? Jesus H. Christ, lol. Are these men or weak-witted morons?
The abandoned ‘cabin in the woods’ in which they spend their first night of being lost makes the Blair Witch house look welcoming. It makes it look like your granny’s house when you went there on holiday as a kid and you knew she was baking up a storm to prepare for your arrival.
Or your own little bed after a night on the lash fuelled by cider and onion rings that’s ended in disgrace as you puke in the taxi and arrive home wasted and without your knickers. I’ve never done that myself, of course, but it just seems like the kind of awful thing that might happen to people. Other people, naturally. Not to me. Never to me. Ahem. Let’s move on…
The cabin is dark, damp, cold, gloomy, sinister, deserted, unliveable-in, and that’s just the downstairs. Upstairs is a hideous humanoid effigy with no head and antlers for hands, but which self-respecting cabin in the woods hasn’t got one of these, especially in Nordic climes? You can get them from IKEA and assemble them yourself, shure…!
The effigy has a very strange, very unsettling effect on the four lads. After a night spent in its malevolent company, they’re all having nightmares or experiencing nightmarish flashbacks to terrible events, eg, it gets into Luke’s head and so poor Luke is being constantly dragged back to that awful night in the off-licence where his mate Rob was brutally slaughtered. They need to get out of the cabin, and out of the woods which stretch for literally miles around, as soon as is humanly possible.
It’s when they’re fleeing through the woods that they discover that whatever was affecting them in the cabin is still with them. (‘Yes Bart, I never left you…!’ Hugo to Bart, THE THING AND I, THE SIMPSONS’ TREEHOUSE OF HORROR, Episode 7) Only it seems bigger, much bigger now, and it makes rustling noises in the trees (which, incidentally, are carved all over in mysterious, runic-looking symbols) as it approaches and it seems like very much a real and physical thing that the lads need to run from. Before it catches them, and kills them…
I was a tiny bit disappointed with the ending but otherwise, this is a perfectly acceptable horror film with some really spooky moments in it. The Swedish scenery and those miles and miles of isolated forestry are all staggeringly beautiful to look at, until you come to the credits and see that it says there: Filmed in Romania.
So, is this Romanian scenery we’ve been admiring then, or is it Swedish scenery? Never having been to either country, I haven’t a clue, but it’s a gorgeous-looking film either way, and one you should check out if you get the chance. Tell ’em Loki sentcha…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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