The Ritual is the kind of horror movie I rarely watch (but rarely mind when I do, based on a book of the kind I’m much more like to read. This is your classic “a group of people go for a walk in the woods, and the monster eats them” kind of story, with a nice twist at the beginning, and a twist at the end, when they run into a bunch of people living in the woods (you would say hillbillies, but it’s set in Sweden) and worshipping the monster.
The twist at the beginning - this group of friends, all male, clearly met at university, and although it’s not precisely definitely it looks like it’s about 15 years ago. They’re meeting in a pub to chat about their next “lads holiday” but they’re not lads any longer, when one of them says they’re too old for Ibiza only one protests and only in the most token of ways. Three of them are drinking red wine rather beer. Two or three of them are married with families old enough to be at school. One of them is greying at the temples. One of them suggests a hiking holiday in Sweden and this idea is not popular, but after leaving the pub he and one other go into an off-license and he is killed because it’s being robbed. Hence, the group (who are mostly really not suited to it) end up hiking in Northern Sweden a few months later, in his memory.
This works nicely because, not only does it add a good reason for this bunch of misfits to be there, it adds a layer of tension to the group that flares up at odd times. The guy that witnessed the murder is still suffering flashbacks and the others show varying reactions to what happened as the stresses of their trip and the events start to mount.
This film is saved by a few things from being lazy schlock horror:
- I always believed the dialogue, especially between the group but even with the crazy cultists at the end.
- While the group didn’t always make smart decisions, usually when they made the not-smart ones they were reasonable and even if someone was saying “We shouldn’t be doing this, we should be doing that instead” (and was right) you could understand why, as group, they were doing something else. It wasn’t a crazy decision as they too often are in this kind of film.
- The monster is kind of cool. And weird. And held back for quite a while. So you get the terror of it and when you see it, it’s definitely not what you imagined but it’s weird enough that it works.
Bechdel test: There were two named females towards the end but they don’t even make eye contact, let alone talk to each other.
Russo test: No, not even a hint that any of them are LGBT+ in any way.
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