A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them. – (Source)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 68% (Critics) / 57% (Audience)
MetaScore: 67 – Generally favorable reviews
Directed By: David Bruckner
Written By: Adam Nevill and Joe Barton
Starring: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier
Once the college friends make the mistake of taking a shortcut through the woods, director David Bruckner starts to form an almost unrelenting sense of dread in every scene. And when the creature in the woods began stalking the group there were legit scary moments. The setting really helps too and Bruckner takes full advantage of those Scandinavian woods to up the creep factor.
The group of actors playing the friends were also really good. They conveyed the camaraderie one expects from folks who have been friends since they were in college while also showing the cracks that naturally come up in those types of friendships just from the wear and tear of time. Add to that mix the traumatic event that spurred them on to their little odyssey and the film’s group dynamic was one of it’s highlights.
There were a bit too many horror subgenres smushed together in this one. We had the found footage stuff, the haunted forest (complete with haunted cabin), the big scary monster, and the creepy wood folk all together to create a confounding bouillabaisse of a movie that never really added up thematically to one cohesive film.
I get that the wood denizens worshiped the creature and sacrificed people to him but what was up with the scary visions, nightmares and all around spooky haunting stuff that went on in the woods? Was it a byproduct of the creature? Was the creature really a Norse-ish god (like the woodland folk claimed) and the forest then was a whole separate supernatural thingamabob?
I hated the design of the creature and the more clear the shots of it were the more I hated it. Nothing about the thing made any sense and really was an instance where keeping something hidden in the shadows and never actually getting a full, clear shot of it would have been the smart move.
Final Verdict: THE RITUAL is a bit uneven but in the end it is an effective horror film with good performances from its cast and solid bit of direction from David Bruckner who is becoming quite the accomplished horror master.