Greetings from the Ethereal Plane,
Based on Adam Nevill’s brilliant 2012 novel, The Ritual follows four grief-stricken friends on a hiking trip that rapidly takes a wicked turn for the worst. Employing pagan themes and a weird fiction atmosphere, the film still holds strong its roots in mainstream horror, honoring the source material and ensuring that Adam Nevill’s prolific writing will likely be adapted again and again.
There is so much to say about this film. From its beautiful production design to its jaw dropping sequences. No moment in this film feels rushed or out of place. The pace is perfect, stringing the audience along in a fever dream of isolation, and wrapping us in the caress of the characters’ lingering regret. The characters are perfectly portrayed, the acting top notch. The sense of brotherhood is strongly executed and provides audiences with characters that are as relatable as they are realistic. Avoiding many clichés, our protagonists make countless attempts to escape that which stalks them in the deep Scandinavian woodlands.
Brimming with tension, we are only offered brief glimpses at the entity that aims to slaughter the four friends, though these short encounters are so well filmed and bubble with enough tension to keep our hands white knuckled and our eyes hesitant to blink. The director, David Bruckner, does a fantastic job of concealing the antagonist for the better part of the film, its presence akin to that of the shark in Jaws. When the reveal finally happens in the third act, it is a sight that will singe your thoughts with horrific remembrance for years to come. The Ritual doesn’t hold back a single punch, the creature’s appearance a satisfying answer to the questions that plague us throughout the film’s first two acts.
Original and thought-provoking, The Ritual excels in its professional quality, astute performances, stunning cinematography, and emotional core. Most horror films fail to comprehend that this genre finds its home in character studies, thrives off of its protagonists. This alone, amongst a myriad of other reasons, sets The Ritual far apart from its contemporaries. It’s heartwarming to see Adam Nevill’s work finally achieve the recognition it has deserved. If The Ritual is as foretelling as we hope, there will be many more films in the works based off the writer’s chilling novels.
2017 was a year for horror cinema that will not soon be forgotten, films such as IT, Get Out, and The Shape of Water not only garnering the attention of mainstream audiences, but also seeing nominations for many awards. The Ritual rings into 2018 with the reminder that the genre we love so dearly is just starting its ascent to the top of cinematic priorities. Marking itself as the first great horror film of 2018, The Ritual is a highly recommended film to add to your list. One that will claw at your emotions, twist tension into your spine, and leave you not only satisfied, but begging for more.