The Ritual conjures up a masterfully ancient monster with folk horror brutality.
The Ritual is a supernatural folk horror film that is based on the 2011 novel of the same name written by Adam Nevill. What is left out in themes is generously filled in by an amazingly created monster, that is very original and imaginative. The atmosphere of the ancient woods, the claustrophobic vibe, the feelings of desperation and paranoia creeps out of the screen even before the actual really horrific events are about to start. If you have read the book, the missing themes and the brilliant buildup in the novel will be missed, but the film definitely recreates that atmosphere and the amazingly created Moder is an absolute must see.
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Four friends are about to undertake a hike through the Swedish woods to commemorate the loss of their friend who was killed in a robbery. But when some of them are out of shape, they have to take a shortcut, and they soon get lost in the vast forest, while something is following them. While they go deeper into the woods they encounter a strange cabin, strange idols and suffer from hallucinations that are an omen of the sinister and menacing ordeal they have to face and it’s rather the question if they make it out alive, if they even can even find their way back.
Why you should watch it
The Ritual isn’t as engrossing as the book, but it does recreate that claustrophobic, threatening and weird atmosphere. The four friends now have a different reason why they go on a hike together and their conflicts are based on the death of their friend instead of having drifted apart for the last 15 years. Leaving out the original theme of the novel and exchanging it for something more tangible for a bigger audience. Which is maybe a good choice. A book has a lot of time to explore the characters, their relationships and to flesh them out. A film doesn’t have that much time to develop a big story, and focuses instead on the dread, the desperation and conflict between them, while getting lost in the woods.
It still has two parts, where the second part stands out and provides for the real folk horror. While that part in the book is heavily based on social themes, the film goes all out with the creation of the magnificent Moder. The ancient god-like creature in the woods. Moder alone makes this film a great watch. It’s one of the most impressive, imaginative, original and creative monsters out there on screen. It’s a true one of a kind, and can’t be compared to any monster you have ever seen. It mostly reminds of a totem-pole consisting of different animals, but that makes up one different creature all together. It’s a moose, combined with a giraffe, with small glowing red eyes, human arms and hands that come out of his head. And he can take different poses that make it all the more impressive. If one could think of a pagan god, then this really hits the mark. It feels so out fo this world, and at the same time very earthly.
He makes his appearance soon in the story but very subtle and without showing himself in the full. But the glimpse you get from him, stirs up a really creepy feeling. Combined with the nightmares, the hallucinations and the scary horrific finds, the film builds up the tension to end in a folk horror climax.
The Ritual is a horror that operates on a visceral level, with surreal imagery, with a foreboding feeling, but also on a physical level that brings the supernatural force to life. Although it’s less impressive than in the novel, it still is a great horror that brings the novel to life and the visual aspects of Moder are really impressive and a great addition to the novel. I therefore also highly recommend to read the book as well, even if you have watched the movie. The book contains a few more horrors and with Moder visually in mind, the story will be even more terrifying.
My favorite part
It will not come as a surprise that I think that Moder was absolutely the best part of the film. While the storyline was a simpler adaptation of the novel, good, but less captivating, Moder was seriously magnificent. I have never seen a creature like that and not many creatures are impressive and equally terrifying just by looking at them. Moder is an absolute joy to watch and does lift this film to a higher level.
Scare factor: ★★★☆☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★★★
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Cast and crew
The Ritual is directed by David Bruckner and based on the novel The Ritual written by Adam Nevill in 2011. The screenplay is written by Joe Barton. It stars Rafe Spall (Luke), Arsher Ali (Phil), Robert James-Collier (Hutch) and Sam Troughton (Dom).
Duration: 94 minutes. Music: Ben Lovett. Cinematography: Andrew Shulkind. Edited by: Mark Towns. Produced by: Jonathan Cavendish, Richard Holmes. Production companies: Imaginarium Productions, Entertainment One. Distributed by: Entertainment One, Netflix.