To honor their late friend, a group of guys embark on a hike in northern Sweden. When they need to take a shortcut through a more wooded area, they find themselves stalked by something in the night. Based on the 2011 novel of the same name, The Ritual seems like a familiar film, but the horrors inside are something unexpected and beautifully delivered.
Luke (Rafe Spall) and his friends are mourning the loss of their friend Rob, who was killed during a robbery. They decide to take a hiking trip to the Sarek National Park in Sweden, which was an idea of Rob’s. In his honor, they hike up the trail to pay their final respects to their friend. Though, Luke is seemingly filled with immense guilt for surviving the robbery that took his friends life.
As they pack up and begin their journey back, Dom (Sam Troughton) twists his leg causing injury to his knee. Hutch (Robert James-Collier) checks their map and tries to assess an alternate route through the woods that would cut their trip shorter. Venturing deeper into the woods, they stumble upon a gutted elk, hung high in the trees. Feeling a sense of unease, they try to pick up their pace but are halted by a severe thunderstorm.
They seek shelter in an old cabin, finding strange markings inside. Phil (Arsher Ali) explores the cabin a bit, finding a frightening sculpture in one of the rooms. They agree to get some rest and then get as far from the cabin – and woods – as possible. During the night they all experience bizarre dreams and find themselves waking up in varying states. It is clear to them that something is not right and they’ve perhaps been marked by whatever is in the woods. They begin to make their way out, but despite the dense forest, there is no hiding from what lies within.
There is so much to be said about this wonderful film. From outside appearances, it seems like a familiar story of friends lost in the woods, hunted by something, possibly supernatural. But what transpires over the course of its 94-minutes is something completely its own. From all aspects, this film is pretty perfect. A concise background story, developing on it cohesively, and providing likable characters that leave you invested.
As much as I love Horror, sometimes character development is a thorn in the side of the genre. Some do it beautifully, but often times you find yourself not fully caring about the characters. With this story, you feel their friendship and you grieve their loss. These characters are smart and easy to connect to, with no time being wasted on denial or inane attempts to explain what’s going on. They get something is up and they try to survive.
More impressive is the films ability to not only create a thrilling and spine-chilling story, but also exceed in its quality outside of a genre piece. It’s artfully shot and its metaphors are beautiful. It also houses one of the most unique creature designs I’ve seen in a long while, one that insights fear and feels realistic.
This film captivates you and draws you in, unlike some other Netflix-acquired flicks. Director David Bruckner really succeeds in taking you on this journey, which never sacrifices style or story. There’s simply nothing to pick apart. It doesn’t rely on cheap tricks, jump scares, or anything you may come to expect. The acting is superb and it’s a masterpiece of a film that on the surface, could scare you away with possible predictability. But there’s nothing predictable about this film and it will satisfy every horror fan in the best of ways.
The Ritual is currently streaming on Netflix