Straight out of Netflix and into the fray. The Ritual is one of the better-made horror films in recent years. But it’s unlikeable characters, are once more a plague that ultimately drags down the quality of the story.
Set in the ever popular landscape for horror films: the deep dark woods. The Ritual tracks the lives of four friends, as they embark on a lads-like hiking holiday. Without giving the rest of the film away. You can gather an idea of what’s next to follow.
As this was the first full feature film, for one of my favorite upcoming horror directors: David Bruckner. I was eagerly excited to see how he’d handle a proper runtime, given he has only directed short film segments for horror anthologies like V/H/S and Southbound. But at the same time, I knew going into it that, unlike those said segments, he had nothing to do with the story for The Ritual. So, I should keep my expectations low and boy was this ever-great advice.
Unlike the technical aspects of this film; the characters of the plot can be just downright awful. This mainly goes for the supporting cast, whose time on screen was better spent playing the most unhelpful group of people. Rather than what they were meant to be: a group of best friends.
Granted, they were put into some extraordinary situations. But when it becomes annoyingly obvious that there has to be a conflict for the sake of conflict; it’s a complete hindrance to the story. When you’re fighting and arguing with no logic, I find it hard it to be engrossed in what you have to say. And if this is happening the entire time you’re on the screen; there’s almost no chance that I will be empathetic towards your situation and I’m praying for the moment you get killed off.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the case with the technical aspects of this film. And this is where my love for David Bruckner has come from. Ignoring the moments of frustrating character exchanges; there are some genuine moments that scared the shit out of me. Which if you may have forgotten (like I have over the years), is what a horror film is meant to fucking do.
Simple but clever technical decisions were employed as clever and perfect scare tactics. The best example of these come from the use of sound mixing, which involved silencing everything in the background and then cutting to an extremely loud zipper noise as the character opens their tent. These are just smart and fantastic works of play, that are equally effective as the now over-used jump scares trait. It often had me turning down the volume on my TV because I was afraid of it scaring the shit out of me the next time it would happen.
And when it comes to the visual aspects of the film from a technical standpoint; there are a lot of “things” that just look fucking incredible. I’ve put the word things in quotation marks, to not give away more of the story. But suffice to say, if you end up watching the film; you’ll know exactly what I mean.
In conclusion. The Ritual is a technical sound horror film with a shitty story. Not to say that all the mythology of its universe is bad. But the characters are often frustrating, like most typical holes other horror films fall through. In saying so, it still warrants enough of a watch, as David Bruckner’s technical genius still shines as an example of how to make a horror film. Therefore, I wholeheartedly recommend seeing it, even with the low ranking that I’ve given it. Just lower your expectations as well before you do so.