Film Review: The Ritual (2017)

Rafe Spall and Sam Troughton impress whilst trapped in a Swedish forest in creepy horror flick The Ritual

“If the shortcut was a shortcut, it wouldn’t be called a shortcut, it would be called a route”

Luke (Rafe Spall), Phil (Luke Arsher Ali), Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Dom (Sam Troughton) and Robert (Paul Reid) are old pals who regularly take bro trips away together but this year, things are a bit different. Robert was killed in a violent attack in a convenience store robbery and so the rest of them have decided to honour his last suggestion – hiking in Sweden. The Ritual follows them when things don’t quite go as planned.

Joe Barton’s screenplay is based on the novel by Adam Nevill and this is to the film’s benefit as you really do get a sense of lived-in character and friendship underpinning the group. As they bicker about their fitness levels and argue about more serious things – like Luke’s role in Robert’s death – there’s an essential relatability to these guys which goes a long way to selling the dynamic of the storytelling as it unwinds through the dark forest path.

That shortcut they take through the woods proves to be their undoing and for the first two thirds of David Bruckner’s film, there’s a highly effective level of creepiness and indeed scariness. Pagan symbols, animal sacrifices and a huge dollop of all-too-human guilt combine to raise the stakes to a menacing place that taps into psychological drama as much as it does the jump scares.

As it often the case, once The Ritual starts to explain things and show itself, it loses some of its allure. It manages something unique in its monstrous conceptualisation but once the mystery has been revealed, much of that special atmosphere dissipates into the cold Swedish night air. Spall is great, James-Collier and Troughton offer strong support as does the under-used Ali, but the ending does leave you wanting more.

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