At this point, everyone knows when you are in the woods, and your compass stops working you are basically screwed. The Ritual is Netflix’s latest horror flick, and it does not disappoint. Directed by David Bruckner (V/H/S, Southbound, The Signal), The Ritual does not start off frightening viewers but instead opens in a British pub with five friends disagreeing about where they will be spending their summer holiday. The acting holds up, especially compared to other movies in the genre, and doesn’t seem like a straight to DVD film. However, the plot is not incredibly offbeat from other monster movies.
The first shock comes quickly when Robert (Paul Reid) is killed in a convenience store robbery in the presence of one of his friends Luke (Rafe Spall). This scene is graphic and disturbing, and a complete shock if you did not read the Netflix description. The lighting throughout the movie is particularly eerie, especially here, and the scenes that are replicated throughout the movie are distressing in their own right, even before the gore.
Poster for the Netflix movie The Ritual. Image via Netflix.
The film then flashes forward six-months where the men have landed on a hiking trip in Sweden. Some of the most incredible parts of The Ritual are the wide, rolling shots. The Swedish mountain landscapes that are shown are breathtaking, and really teleport you into another world. The forests look incredibly lush but ominous as well. The mountain peaks are alluring yet sinister.
The sound design is also incredibly done. At one point the friends are drudging through what they thought would be a shortcut through the woods after one of them suffers a leg injury, and the silence is unsettling. Only the sounds of snapping twigs and rustling leaves are heard as they stumble through the forest.
The plot does feel like a patchwork horror film, however. David Bruckner has proven he can do horror films, and he can do them well. But this one seems to be taking the best parts of other films, like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield or The Evil Dead, and pushing them into a two-and-a-half-hour hodgepodge. The Ritual is still entertaining but almost gives away too much. For monster movies, it is one of the better ones, but there still seem to be too many wide shots of the villain, when the close-ups are where the true horror of the creature is seen.
Although it’s not incredibly original (although most horror tropes have been played out these days), the flick still holds up as a well-shot horror movie. The character development is there, and it gets more and more chilling the longer you watch.