Four lads and a camping trip either sounds like your ideal of heaven or hell, especially when a trip to Ibiza or Las Vegas was on the cards. Add in some eerie forests, weird engravings and abandoned shacks in the middle of nowhere, and you’ve got yourself The Ritual, a surprisingly enjoyable horror from director David Bruckner and a particularly strong cast led by Rafe Spall.
The film starts off with 5 friends busy planning their next lads week away, with everything from Amsterdam to America trying and failing to get traction; the suggestion of hiking in Europe falls on deaf ears too. Two of the guys, Luke (Spall) and Rob are held up in a corner shop robbery, ending in Rob getting bludgeoned to death while Luke watches on, unable to move or intervene. It haunts him even 6 months later, where the 4 remaining lads honour their fallen friend by taking that hiking trip he suggested. When the group starts to have enough and yearn for the comfort of the lodge that began their trip, a shortcut is found through the woods covering the mountains.
So far, so good. You’ll be on the edge of your seat for at least an hour as you go through the motions of your classic horror film. One of the group see something, hear strange noises, some jump scares follow and a sense of danger is omnipresent. It’s beautifully told though, with the writing, that’s driven strongly by British banter that you can actually relate to, making these situations ever more real. The first night doesn’t hold anything back, with each lad experiencing strange goings on, enough to quickly dispel anyone denying the strange activities. The Ritual also ones a great job of leaving things in plain sight, freaking you out more when something does move, or passes in the distance – it puts you on edge throughout and drops you right into the forest.
The payoff? It’s not that refined. Adaptions from books mean that you’re pretty much wed to the source material and it shows here. You’ll be mistaken for thinking the film is taking you towards a psychological thriller, but it doubles back and stays true to a traditional horror. The overarching journey that Luke has to tackle is this sense of facing your daemons and standing up for what’s right, which you might argue is delivered in the ending but could have definitely been pulled out a bit more.
It’s a classic near-90 minute horror run-time, and as a story it’s well rounded and perfect to add to your horror collection. David Bruckner is a dab hand at horror at this point, and this film definitely stands out from his filmography. The Swedish setting is breathtaking, but most definitely unnerving; expansive, yet claustrophobic and plays with both the cast and the audience well. For Halloween, it’s a proper good staple to see, but doesn’t quite reach the heights of key players like IT this October.
Check out the trailer below: