To honor their late friend, a group of friends set out 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, you may think you know what to expect with The Ritual, but the horrors inside are something surprising 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, an idea of Rob’s, to pay final respects to their friend.
As they pack up and begin their journey back, Dom (Sam Troughton) twists his leg. Hutch (Robert James-Collier) checks their map and finds a much shorter route. 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.
Seeking shelter in an old cabin, they find strange markings inside, with Phil (Arsher Ali) finding a frightening sculpture in one of the rooms. It is clear to them that something is not right and they’ve perhaps been marked by whatever is in the woods. They attempt to leave 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 lost-in-the-woods story, hunted by something possibly supernatural. But what transpires throughout 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 movies, sometimes character development is a thorn in the side of the genre. Some do it beautifully, but oftentimes 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 film’s 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. 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 will satisfy every horror fan in the best of ways.
The Ritual is available on Netflix