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Review - The Ritual

By midlandsmovies, Feb 10 2018 09:50AM

The Ritual (2018) Dir. David Bruckner

After their close friend is murdered during an attack in an off-licence, four guys honour his memory by heading into the woods in this new film from David Bruckner, who attempts to tackle redemption and regret during a frightful trip to the forest.

Predictably the four males get into the usual trouble – twisted ankles, bad weather and splitting up – which harms the film from the outset. Sadly, like Scream did with slasher movies, the incidents presented here were so brilliantly sent-up by Cabin in the Woods you cannot help but guffaw at the clichés when they arrive. After a night spent in a cursed shelter, the men begin to experience nightmarish visions but the horror tropes continue to pile up with the men losing their way and mobile phones not working. Obvs.

In its positive column is the fantastic Rafe Spall as the protagonist who was present during his friend’s death and whose lack of action in defending and protecting his pal weighs heavy on his mind. But a selection of rounded characters and some minimal drama cannot overcome its familiarity. In and of itself, wandering aimlessly around the woods does not a drama make, no matter how many slow intentional zooms are presented in an attempt to create tension. And I wasn’t a fan of the original Blair Witch for precisely the same reason.

A repeated motif is a shot of densley populated trees used as a visual metaphor where plants encompass the frame and between the trees the audience are challenged to identify a vague moving shape along with the characters. Although it’s good to build a sense of dread with filmmakers hiding their “beastie" at the start, after a good hour I was longing for some clarity of the terror stalking them.

As a character comically runs into a tree and with endless dream sequences – I mean how many times can you wake from a nightmare – it’s vying with Batman vs. Superman for the most flashback visions in a movie. For me, and in contrast to some reviews I’ve read, the final third is actually the more entertaining. The movie’s ending kicks up a gear but with huge swathes of nothingness, the film had mostly lost me before we glimpse the (impressively designed however) creature itself. The film attempts to veer towards original Wicker Man territory but ends up feeling much more like Nicolas Cage’s humour-filled version.

The director’s previous work includes the Amateur Night segment in anthology fright flick V/H/S and although this film could have made a great short, the 94 minutes feels far longer. But in the end. its poor attempts to present a masculinity-in-crisis theme is undermined by a lack of engagement and, frankly, a lack of entertainment.


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