THE RITUAL —-or “Blair Witch meets the Wicker Man for Deliverance in Midsommar”. With horns. Directed by David Bruckner, this 2017 ruined-vacation horror slog was scripted by Joe Barton, from Adam Neville’s 2011 book. Well-reviewed, the book was presumably better. As one character—the most annoying—gripes “Oh, this is awful in almost every conceivable way.”
Four British men in their mid-30s, friends from their Uni days, take a trek into a remote region of Sweden, partially to honor a friend who originally suggested the trip just before he was murdered in a robbery. One of the four was witness to the killing, and is consumed with guilt over doing nothing to intervene. He, and the other three will have more to worry about after they take a “short cut” (see: phrase to avoid when on a wilderness hike) through some dense forest. Warning signs–like a gutted stag hanging forty feet up in a tree and horrid nightmares they experience after breaking into a deserted cabin (none of them apparently have ever seen a monster movie) give way to nightmarish terror involving inbred cultish humans and a resident creature from Nordic mythology. Plus one guy—the most annoying—has bad boots. They swear a lot, because most of the guys who write most these scripts would not know what to say if they could not inject “fuck” into every sentence.
There are some neat shots of the locale–but, they cheat here, too, as, presumably for budgetary reasons, Sweden’s landscapes are substituted by the Carpathians of Romania, which anyone over four knows is about the worst place you want to wander off into the hills. *
The men are played, well enough, by Rafe Spall, Sam Troughton, Robert Jams-Collier and Arsher Ali. The derivative and lazy script sticks it to the actors as much as the thing in the trees does, and when it ultimately shows up, it’s a disappointment as well. All the way, Ben Lovett’s score overdoes telegraphing “ominous”. Gross came to $1,786,400. 94 minutes.
* Some of the nicest people I ever met were in Romania. I got the bite marks in Maine.