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John’s Horror Corner: The Ritual (2017), a great Netflix Original creature feature.

February 11, 2018

MY CALL:  This film really kept me on my toes. It never leads where you’d expect, but always tends to satisfy with its dark atmosphere and the mysterious evil force in the woods.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The RitualFor more Netflix Original horror, try Gerald’s Game (2017) or The Babysitter (2017). Some other great creature features that don’t play out to predictable expectations include Willow Creek (2013), The Hallow (2015), Grabbers (2012), Thale (2012) and Trollhunter (2010). And if you really dig horror movies that remove the secluded cabin and focus more on the horrors of the forest, check out podcast Episode 57: Podcast in the Woods.

After the tragic death of a close friend, a group of old college friends reunite for hiking expedition in northern Sweden approaching Norway—a venue chosen by their lost comrade.

Cast: Rafe Spall (Prometheus, Shaun of the Dead), Paul Reid (Vikings), Sam Troughton (Slumber, AVP: Alien vs Predator), Robert James-Collier and Arsher Ali. They all did a great, credible job as characters doing their best in a horrible situation, lost in the woods.

The consequence of a twisted knee, they are forced to take a shortcut home—bisecting the forest and cutting their trip in half in order to get their hurt friend to medical aid.  Of course, this is the worst idea in horror movie history! LOL. Short cuts all too often result in death. In fact, there’s an entire horror franchise named for such time-saving strategies… Wrong Turn (2003-2014; 6 films and counting, and they never turn out well).

All the typical clichés befall this film. But I appreciate their execution. They never feel tired or stale because everything is delivered naturally. Their compass stops working, but no one makes a fuss—things break, after all, so no need for commotion.  The woods get eerily quiet—but four chatty blokes in the woods might quiet the few active late-Fall birds and miles of trees could absorb some sound. They take selfies—but acknowledge their own silliness.  We all know they’re in for something bad, but nothing is overly staged for forced upon us.  Things creep up, they build, and we are never really sure where this ride is taking us.

Of course, things get a little weird after they stumble across a ritualistically gutted and suspended elk carcass (think Event Horizon or Predator) and then take shelter in a creepy witch house surrounded by wood-etched glyphs.  Between the opening and end of the first act, this feels a lot like Blair Witch (both the new Blair Witch and Book of Shadows) meets The Descentbut it won’t lead where you expect.  Loving the pacing, characters, execution and atmosphere all the way, you’re embarking on a delightfully weird path with this film.

The creature effects are solid!  You never see much of the monster, but what you do see looks awesome and effective.  It’s not something we’ve seen before in horror (at least, not that I’m aware), and it looks pretty cool!

Director David Bruckner (The Signal, V/H/S segment “Amateur Night”, Southbound) has a good filmography and I’ve enjoyed everything he’s done… but he was really hitting above his weight on this one!  Likable characters, creepy atmosphere, unique monster… to be fair, things get REALLY weird, but only in ways I enjoyed.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2018 9:18 am

    I’ve been looking forward to seeing this since I first caught the trailer a few months ago. Good to hear it’s worthwhile checking out.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      February 12, 2018 10:08 am

      So far “most” of my friends have been loving this–one was displeased with the ending. I, contrastingly, loved the ending and the entire turn of the third act. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts after you see it.

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