The Ritual (2017)

The Ritual
If you go down to the woods today...

Director: David Bruckner
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Starring: Rafe Spall, Robert James-Collier, Arsher Ali, Sam Troughton, Paul Reid

Luke (Rafe Spall) is left haunted by friends death, after being too afraid to intervene during a convenience store robbery. To honour his memory, Luke and four other friends go on a hiking holiday in Sweden. Their decision to take a shortcut through the woods is ill-advised, as it results in unsettling goings on.

Considering the picture focuses on a group of friends, the character relationships have to be established from early on. This is attempted through banter, and is done rather decently. Considering how underwritten the majority of the group are, this method proves to be one of the films better elements. It does a better job of establishing this group we're left following, when the lacking characterization leaves one unsatisfied.

Image result for the ritual 2017The most we get is from Rafe Spall, who's coping with survivors guilt after the opening events. It fractures his friendship with Dom, who ultimately blames him for their friends death. This aspect fails to receive any kind of closure, instead opts to just vanish from the picture. Still, the cast do a great job portraying their characters, which makes it a shame the writing lets them down. Instead, the script seems keen to inject a sense of humour, which is unfortunate when it feels rather lacking, and often feels forced.

The first half slowly builds the atmosphere, using what's unseen to instil an uneasy undercurrent into the proceedings. Then there's the second half, which feels taken from an entirely different film, one which would rather resort to tired conventions. If the first half wants to be like the 1999 cult classic, The Blair Witch Project, then the second half is content with trying to ape The Wicker Man (starring Edward Woodward, as opposed to Nicholas Cage).

In spite of a game cast, The Ritual is a forgettable entry into the horror genre. What we're left with is a disposable and unremarkable horror-comedy, stitched together from two disjointed halves.