Thursday, February 15, 2018

[Review] The Ritual

Netflix's The Ritual is a deeply intriguing horror flick that's set out in the unpredictable wilderness. It definitely brims with the disturbing, shocking, wicked, and mysterious cult-ish activity that you'd anticipate from a film called The Ritual, while still managing to completely freak you out and defy expectations. In fact, Netflix should've put more behind this one because it's a much better genre piece than the massively hyped dud that was The Cloverfield Paradox.

The story revolves around a group of four guys (played by Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, and Sam Troughton) as they embark on strenuous trek in the foggy mountains of Northern Sweden. On the way back, they decide to take a shortcut through the forest (dun dun dun dun...), and it isn't long before they begin running into some bad signs -- like the gutted animal lodged up into a tree (dun dun dun dun...). It's best not to give too much more away, but let me just say that things get really weird and really scary.

From beginning to end, The Ritual is consistently engaging and surprising in the best ways. The dark, woody setting serves well as the film is cloaked in a constant sense of ominous dread and paranoia, especially as the crew begins to hear faint growls and rustlings in the bushes, and as they begin to experience hallucinations and episodes of some sort of bodily possession. At this point, seeing a bear would actually be a relief! And the terror doesn't only come from outside threats, but also from within the group of hikers themselves. Their tight-knit friendship is fractured under such stressful circumstances, and feelings of resentment and harsh truths come to the surface. Amidst all the paranormal mania is a narrative packed with themes of guilt, grief, sacrifice, redemption, and facing fears.

With echoes of films like Kill List and The Witch, The Ritual methodically escalates to a creepy, chilling, evil-entrenched, and wildly entertaining ending -- even if it leaves some things up in the air.

( 8/10 )

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