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.
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