This brilliantly self-aware and a beautifully acted British horror movie is Adapted by David Bruckner (The Signal, Southbound) from Adam Nevill’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name. Centring around themes of redemption, guilt and the fear of the unknown, The Ritual delves deep into our innermost fears and raw emotions to tell a truly terrifying story.
After the devastating murder of a member of their close-knit group, four former university friends decide to take a hiking trip in the Swedish wilderness to honour his memory. Luke (Rafe Spall) is still reeling from having witnessed the violent death of his best friend during an off-licence robbery while hiding from the attackers. Feeling guilty about the events, and dejected by how he is perceived by the rest of the group, Luke agrees to make the trip he was dead-set against, in the hope that it might bring him some closure.
As the group, which is also made up of Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Phil (Arsher Ali) and Dom (Sam Troughton) make their way through the arduous Swedish wilderness, they have to make a change to their initial plans when Dom falls and hurts his knee.
The seemingly friendly jabs and laddish banter suddenly turn into blame and recrimination when the hapless foursome find themselves unable to find a way out of the wilderness. After a night in an abandoned cabin, the group starts to believe that there is something evil haunting their dreams and hunting them in real life.
Spall puts in a genuinely impressive turn as a man tortured by his own conscience, while the rest of the cast are equally impressive as the jovial happy-go-lucky lads who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Troughton in particular does a great job as cocksure city bod Dom.
Bruckner, aided by Joe Barton’s brilliantly realistic dialogue, does a fantastic job in highlighting all the right themes, without ever resorting to facile tropes in order to drive the idea home. Playing with the whole “cabin in the woods” horror genre, mixed with a generous dose of “pagan folk horror”, the film manages to install a real sense of unease and genuine terror in its audiences, which is no mean feat.
Like with any other intelligent horror movie, The Ritual is about so much more than scaring its audience senseless. The Ritual manages to push the boundaries by cleverly avoiding the “Conjuring effect” of loud thumps and jump-scares all the while bringing something fresh to the genre. Even of it isn’t likely to set the box office on fire, the film does a good enough job in keeping its audience entertained for 90 minutes or so, and who can ask for more in a mid-budget horror movie.
With an expertly judged tone and at times hilarious dialogue, The Ritual succeeds where many have failed before it, by offering a simple premise with a deeply complex narrative.