15 – 94mins – 2017
FEAR THE FOREST
While big money genre tentpoles like Blade Runner 2049 and It will always garner the most fanfare, sometimes the real cinematic gems are the smaller features released with only minimum fuss and which, sadly, often leave theatres before word of mouth has had a chance to take full effect. Say hello to The Ritual, which at time of typing is clinging on at my local Cineworld with just one late screening in only its second week. However, if you read this in time I cannot recommend this creepy chiller enough, so please hot-foot it down to your local picture house and take a walk in these woods…
Based upon a novel by British author Adam Nevill, this Joe Barton-scripted David Bruckner helmed horror is a solid supernatural scare-fest from our shores, featuring five 30-something old uni mates (Rafe Spall, Rob James-Collier, Sam Troughton, Arsher Ali, Paul Reid) planning a big bang of a final ladz holiday when tragedy strikes and one of them is murdered in a corner store robbery-turned-bloody.
In honour of their fallen friend, six months later the group unite for a walking holiday in the bleak and isolated Swedish hills. This is the trip Rob (Reid) wanted to go on, and it seems a fitting place for them to eulogise and send him off in style. However, when Dom (Troughton) falls and injures his leg, they are reluctantly forced to take an off-road detour through the looming and labyrinthine woodland – a detour they won’t all return from.
Being 33 and often still finding myself in a post-university fug of meandering discontentment, I strongly related to the character’s faltering dynamic and the bubbling resentment which grows between some members of the group as time moves on and people change. Rafe Spall gives a superbly nuanced performance as protagonist Luke, a fun-loving man struggling with growing older and the feeling of guilt dwelling within for not doing more to save his best mate.
While The Ritual is far from unique or revolutionary, it does master the conventions of the genre; this is the film the rebooted Blair Witch (reviewed HERE) should have been, and last year’s The Forest (reviewed HERE) sorely strove to be. As the mythological mystery surrounding the antler-adorned beast which is stalking them does become clearer the longer they are lost amidst the seemingly never-ending trees, the conclusion never attempts to answer every question the film poses. Rather than perturb me, I admired not being spoon-fed the supernatural story.
CR@B’s Claw Score: