Here comes another horror movie courtesy of Netflix. This one had a lot of promise and potential.
Based on Adam Neville's novel 'The Ritual', this flick has its ups and downs but for the most part isn't half bad.
Four men go on a hiking trip, despite the fact that none of them are exactly experienced. However, the trip is bittersweet as one of their group was recently killed in a horrific robbery, unable to attend alongside his buddies. For some, this trip a way of honoring him. For one in particular, who was there during the alteration and did nothing, is his way of coping with the enormous burden of guilt and regret hovering over him like a dark cloud.
However, while they expected brisk walks and soothing talks, mixed in with tents and basic food, something more ominous and supernatural comes their way. An unseen foe preys on their personal fears and weaknesses as they delve deeper into these woods. After a few strange and unexplainable incidents, the men quickly become unsettled and on edge. Tensions rise in the group as a result of the bizarreness following them, and their own issues. All the threads come loose.
One aspect of the movie I just couldn't get away from was the awkward and clunky conversations. I feel the scriptwriter tried too hard to create a macho vibe that came across as uncomfortable. Some dialogue was forced, as if to create a testosterone-fuelled weekend with beer and farting, when it made the characters appear two-dimensional and stereotypical. Yet, as the movie progresses, these archetypes become real people with genuine fears and problems. The initial awkwardness fades, to an extent. This is disappointing, as the actors are quite talented, I just feel that maybe the script or direction lacked during the filming process. I was especially impressed with Rafe Spall (Luke), who I instantly recognised from Hot Fuzz, though he played a drastically different character in this. Robert James-Collier (Hutch), straight from Downton Abbey, was the voice of reason and strength within the group. And Sam Troughton (Dom) showed his true colours as a highly nervous and stressed out character who cracked under pressure.
Although, the movie did have some strengths. The videography was excellent. Some shots of the wilderness were nothing short of majestic and elicited that tingly feeling. I found myself mesmerized by the scenery explored through a variety of angles.
The soundtrack was simple but fitting. It stirred up jumps and scares while producing a tense and unnerving atmosphere that I enjoyed. In some instances, silence was the best soundtrack they could administer to scenes of dread and suspense.
On a psychological level, the movie had meaning. It delves deep into their psyche and has their worst nightmares come to fruition. These tough guys became feeble, shivering wrecks after experiencing extremely graphic night terrors that toyed with their view of reality and fiction. For me, it was this intriguing exploration of psychology that maintained my interest and kept me hooked until the end. Not to mention, I wanted to know how they would end this tale. A bad ending can leave a bitter taste in your mouth and ruin the whole movie. Especially when the film had its obvious flaws from the get-go.
There are thousands of horror movies set in the woods with similar plots. It takes a truly great cast and director to bring something new to the table. What can they explore that hasn't been explored before or hasn't really been touched on, on a significant and detailed level?
Now then, the ending. Despite the problems in this flick, the ending more than made up for it. The speed dials up. The action becomes more fulfilling to a hungry audience. It becomes edgier and much more satisfying than the first forty minutes or so. There is one common and strange denominator in the suffering of these men, and that's a strange and large object. This explodes in the ending. While there were drawbacks, the ending perked me up and left me with a pleasant feeling. The flaws, in the grand scheme of things, were minor in comparison to how well the ending was executed.
Netflix is really upping their game this year by buying shows that stand out. Channel 4, a British network, produced this surprisingly superb series. It has unique scripts, professional and impressive effects, and great actors.
'The End of the F*cking World' is a hit.
What first drew me to it was that it's British, as am I. This comes across in the countryside scenery and the decor of homes, which I personally found to be nostalgic and overtly English. But secondly, I was drawn due to the elements of horror. After watching the trailer and discovering that the show explores a young boy who strongly believes he may be a psychopathic killer, I instantly added it to my list.
A young boy (James) is following the typical serial killer path: killing animals, doesn't 'do' emotion or socialize well, and the big give away: he yearns to kill something bigger.
In school, he keeps to himself. He blends in and avoids drawing too much attention to himself. He doesn't have time to deal with high school drama, he has bigger fish to fry. Or, if speaking technically, bigger living creatures to kill: humans.
A young girl takes a liking to him, a rather candid and brash young lady. She is outspoken and bold, to say the least. They begin an unlikely and unconventional love affair, which takes a dark turn. However, it does not turn out the way you think it will. The tables are turned on the viewer.
Throughout the series, the characters develop remarkably. You get two completely different people who grow on each other. They identify their differences and push past them. On a road trip to find the girl's father, they find themselves in a spot of bother on more than one occasion.
I found the lead actors, Jessica Barden (Alyssa) and Alex Lawther (James), to be impressive. They suited the characters fantastically.
Jessica portrayed Alyssa as this misunderstood girl who speaks out to deflect from her insecurities, behaving self-destructively. I went to school with girls like this, whose first response to most situations was anger, stemming from feeling uncomfortable, stupid, or misinformed. The performance came across as genuine. Although she made me uncomfortable on more than one occasion, I can't deny the authenticity of her performance.
Whereas Alex plays James as a quirky, odd individual who hates 'feelings' and is awkwardly stumbling through adolescence. We all knew, or were, someone like this. They were nice yet reserved, shy yet always there to offer help. However, James seems to merely want to blend into the background and prefers to monitor human behaviour, rather than partake in it.
Against all wishes, he begins to get 'the feels'.
The voice overs (internal dialogue) was needed with such characters that don't often speak. This aided character development and often their exterior didn't accurately express their inner anguish.
As the story progresses, we see glimpses of actual people with souls within these archetypes, creating a need to know who these people really are and how this horrible journey will affect them. Who will they turn out to be?
There are some adorable yet uncomfortable scenes that remind us what it's like to be that age, having these feelings and not sure how to handle them. It also reminds us we have all behaved embarrassingly as youngsters, acting out for attention, or as some form of a coping mechanism.
The pace was fast, but not rushed. Scenes were sharp with no 'filler' moments. Everything was essential to character development or the plot. And if anything, the show continues to strengthen as it progresses. These opposite characters start to form a bond, shockingly. Everything falls into place after that. Things get darker and darker as their twisted road trip continues, putting them face-to-face with danger.
I found the twists to be exciting and unexpected, none of which I saw coming. I'd say this fits in the middle of comedy, horror, and has definite 'indie' vibes. The production is top-of-the-range without being all flashy and Hollywood-esque. You are taken on a ride that's unnerving, inappropriate, entertaining, and bizarre.
Overall, I'd give this a 9/10. My only problem, which has nothing to do with the content but rather it's length, is that the episodes are super short. Each clock in at around twenty minutes. I sincerely hope there will be a season two. I can see this show sprouting off in so many directions.
Bestselling horror author, marketer, blogger, reviewer, business owner, freelance writer.