WARNING: This post contains spoilers.
If you’re browsing Netflix for a horror movie, The Ritual is definitely one worth checking out. Set in a foreboding, heavily wooded landscape of the Swedish mountains, this horror film reminds viewers that maybe, just maybe you should think twice about taking that shortcut – because you know, clearly that horror movie trope hasn’t been done enough.
Nevermind that, though. Starting off with a group of friends discussing their next vacation, we soon learn which character is the biggest coward of the troupe – Luke, The Ritual‘s first bloodletting comes fairly early on. Unintentionally, Luke and Robert (Rafe Spall and Paul Reid, respectively) stumble upon a robbery whilst they are inside a liquor store. Luke, in a cowardly manner, retreats and in his endeavor to do so, hits a few bottles and makes a noise, alerting the robbers to Robert’s presence and thus resulting directly in Robert’s murder. The guilt eats at him later on, but during the entire fiasco, Luke makes no attempt to come to Robert’s aid; he only watches as his friend is brutally slaughtered. (Okay, that one might be a bit of a hyperbole compared to later scenes, but I digress.)
As a direct result of this incident, the remaining quartet, which consists of Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Phil (Arsher Ali), and Dom (Sam Troughton) in addition to Luke, decide to go hiking in memory of Robert – a trip they’d originally ridiculed him about in the earlier bar scene. And thus, we have the set up of The Ritual.
Plotwise, I felt The Ritual was fairly solid as far as cult movies go – if a bit overplayed. Group of guys goes on a trip. Someone gets injured. They try to take a shortcut back. Things go badly. Of course, there’s a bit more of an occult flavor to it, one that’s a bit more haunting in quality which is nice, but overall it’s nothing new. The difference here is it is something that is done well as opposed to half-assed.
When we get to characters though, the only one that’s even remotely likable in my opinion is Phil. The others are all self-centered assholes or, in Luke’s case, cowards. Dom’s got the luck of a bag of rocks tossed into a lake and told to float, and Hutch… we’ll leave it at that. Luke’s character, on the other hand, experiences major growth. Earlier in the film, we watch him suffer from the inability to act; by the end of the film he is forced into action: either he redeems himself, or he dies.
Another aspect of this film that I love is its absolutely breathtaking shots. I hate using adverbs that I’ve already used earlier in a review, but haunting is such an apt description of the shots taken of the Swedish forests and mountains that we see in The Ritual. Those scenes, coupled with the disturbing echoes of Luke’s guilt really have a way of balancing out the movie.