A large number of the students at Allegheny College love the outdoors, and would do anything to spend as much time as possible outside.
That being said, a large amount of the campus can relate to a lot of the problems the men in “The Ritual” run into, including a lost compass, unfortunate fall resulting in a twisted ankle and losing track of the trail, which causes them to end up in a different part of the forest than originally planned.
Finding yourself in the situation of being hunted by some sort of tree sized demonic monster? … Well, maybe not yet. But the potential of that happening makes this movie all the more scary. I think it is safe to say I will not be heading to the Nordic Forest anytime soon.
The film starts with five long-time friends, enjoying a night out in celebration of a distant friend’s bachelor party. To continue their night, Robert, played by Paul Ried, and Luke, played by Rafe Spall, go into the liquor store, not realizing that it is being robbed. Events escalate, and Robert dies.
Losing a friend, especially one who seems to be the foundation of the very friend group, causes a big rift between the four men. To honor their dearly departed Robert, they decide to go on a hike. An intense, multiple day backpacking trip surrounding a branch in the Nordic forest far from any of their comfort zones.
While none of them are exactly happy about this and make those feelings known, each talking about how they would much rather be in Vegas, they muster the courage to take the hike because they knew Robert wanted to explore it more than any other “fun night the lads would have.”
When on said hike, Dom, played by Tom Troughton, who is constantly teased for being the klutz of the group, falls, twists his ankle and hurts his knee. In an attempt to be supportive friends in this time of mourning, Hutch, played by Robert-James Collier, suggests that instead of hiking the side of the mountain, they cut to the forest valley to get to the lodge on the other side, because the quickest way to get from point A to point B is a straight line. Albeit a dark, dense, creepy and quiet straight line.
Through a series of events, the group of grieving friends find themselves to being hunted by some demonic monster that they cannot see, but know it is there. There were multiple signs right from the get go, like when they found a large animal completely gutted and hanging from a tree, which they shrugged off by thinking it was some sort of primal hunter, as do most people in horror movies, because if they acted rationally in this situation, there wouldn’t be a movie. They technically weren’t wrong.
They continue to sense the strange, evil presence the first night they spend in the forest, when they stay in an abandoned house to avoid the heavy rain and each has a terrifying nightmare that leaves them waking up in foreign and embarrassing positions. Things only get worse.
The first time I tried to watch the movie, I could not get through the last 18 minutes, and I think of myself as someone who can handle horror movies very well. The second time I watched the movie, I got through it all but it took work because of all the jump-scares and the gore. Even when I expected them to happen, I was still taken aback. Hats off to the British people who wrote and directed this.
Several classic horror themes are present in the movie, such as the cult feel, a scary amount of deity fear, a heavy amount of gore and the psychological torment you see Luke go through as he blames himself for Robert’s death.
I will see scenes from this movie in my nightmares, but that is what makes a good horror movie in my opinion. It is definitely not one for people who cannot handle blood, detailed murder, cult sacrifices and anything that was hinted at in being in the Blair Witch Project. This time you actually see the evil things living in the woods, not the shaky camera documentation.
This is not the type of horror movie you watch with a significant other to snuggle and protect each other to. “The Ritual” is the type of horror movie you watch with fight or flight instincts highly sensitive. It is the movie that freaks you out for weeks as you walk through the tree-covered parts of campus. Good luck.