Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The 221st review overall!
Dear and Little Dear came to visit me at work today. They got a little tour, met a bunch of people and then we went to Melisa’s favorite restaurant Which Witch. Melissa has been dying to know which witch I ordered at Which Witch. But before all that, I settled in and went to the Netflix well and fished out...
The Ritual (2017)
Let me get one thing out of the way early, this is a British movie and the accents are thick. I watched a decent amount of this movie with the subtitles on for that reason and because Netflix on my TV tends to come in quieter when people are talking, but sounds like someone jumping on every piano key for the background noise. This movie takes a bit of setup in my review than normal, so bear with me.
Five friends from college are gathering to discuss a trip to take. They give the normal bro-trips, but one of them suggests a hiking trip through Sweden. The fellas laugh it off, and when they leave two of them accidentally walk into the middle of an armed liquor robbery. One of them hides, but the other freezes. The robbers demand his wallet and watch which he obliges, but balks when they demand his wedding ring. One of them, in an incredibly disturbing scene slashes him with a machete, then when he’s on the ground, murders him with it. I’m a huge Jason Voorhees fan, so I’ve seen many, many machete deaths, but this one was the worst. I can’t quite put my finger on as to why, it’s two hits, and there’s not much blood and it doesn’t linger. I think because it was so minimal and realistic, it felt real, like the stabbing scene in Zodiac. It kept playing in the back of my head well after the scene ended. Just disturbing...
Six months later and the four friends decide to go on the hiking trip their murdered friend wanted. For the next ten minutes you’re treated to absolutely gorgeous scenery. I can’t say enough how beautiful the terrain is, and the movie is shot to really show it off. While they’re walking you get great dialogue to go with it. It’s not really overly funny or clever, but definitely sounds like real conversations friends would have. Whoever wrote the dialogue did a damn good job with it.
The group has a touching goodbye for their friend, but then one of them falls and badly tweaks an old injury. In order to shave a lot of time, they decide to take a shortcut through the woods. I think you can see where this is going...
Everything before this is entertaining and infinitely watchable, but once they find some shelter from a storm, it picks up big time. The cabin is empty except for one room upstairs that has a wooden effigy shaped like a decapitated human torso with antlers for hands. It’s when they fall asleep that the movie gets really good. They all have a nightmare that effects them differently that they won’t talk about. The dude that hid from the attack in the beginning is still haunted by that night, he walks outside and ends up back in the liquor store. He eventually wakes back up outside to one of his friends screaming. It’s then he notices he has weird puncture wounds in his chest. He runs inside, the leader of the group was so traumatized he pissed himself, the dude who got hurt earlier keeps yelling his wife’s name and the last guy is found naked upstairs, unknowingly praying to the wooden effigy. The image is legitimately frightening, and his reaction to it then and how freaked out he is throughout the movie is perfect.
From there, the dudes start to lose it. They never got over the death of their friend, and they, some more outright than others, blame the dude who hid. But they’re turning on each other on a believable way, it’s not they’re being assholes, they’re terrified and panicking as something keeps stalking and hunting them through the trees.
While they’re trying to make it back to civilization, the movie never lets up. It’s as tense of an hour as I can remember sitting through. You and the characters never get a chance to let up because you can always hear a branch snap or a growl somewhere in the distance whenever you get to feel comfortable. I had to get up once to check on Lincoln, and was so relieved that I still had a half hour to go, it was that good.
Up until this point, I honestly had zero complaints or nit picks about it. That starts to change once they run into a group of people living in the woods. I rolled my eyes because I didn’t want to see another horror film where somehow a group of weirdos were pulling the strings, but I was pleasantly surprised. They don’t play as big a part as I thought they would, they’re not in control and they’re involved in a pretty fantastic and crazy sequence at the climax.
That’s enough summary. I really, really liked this one. You don’t see what’s stalking them for almost the entire movie. All you know is it’s big, strong and enjoys impaling its victims on trees. You eventually get told what it is, before you see it and it’s s pretty good monster, you’re OK with it even though you haven’t seen it. Now, at the end you FINALLY get to see what it is. It makes its way out in the open and goes in for a close up. Here were my thoughts, “Hmm, that’s kind of a let down. I was kinda hoping for... wait... uhh... oh... my... God... THAT FUCKING THING HAS HUMAN HANDS!!”
I can’t get over how disturbing it was to me this creature had the hands of a human. It’s a little thing on the monster, but it makes a HUGE difference. Without that tough, this creature is kinda eh... but with human hands, it’s fucking nightmare fuel. Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something that happened later... There’s almost a pretty hilarious scene where the dude is trying to escape and he comes face to face with an old woman who seems to be in charge. The two stare at each other for a few seconds when he all of a sudden throws a haymaker and knocks her out. I shouldn’t laugh, but it’s just so sudden and unexpected that it’s unintentionally really funny. Plus, she wasn’t a very friendly person.
This movie is really good and worth watching. The shots of the landscape are unbelievably pretty, the cast has really good chemistry, the writing is on point, the tension is laid on extremely thick that you don’t have a chance to settle in. I can’t remember the last movie that had me that unnerved as the group makes their way to the forest. Watch it now.
9 Dr. Chainsaws!
Post Script, I need a mini rant for one second about why I get annoyed by movie critics. I was checking the Wikipedia page and came across this part of a review from RogerEbert.com by a clown named Simon Abrams. He ends his review by summing it up thusly, “The most disappointing kind of bad horror movie: the kind that's too smart to be this dumb.” What a bunch of pretentious drivel. His full review is more of the same terribleness and you can tell he is just a little too impressed with himself. He’s the worst.