Film Review: The Ritual

You may or may not be familiar with the work of Adam Nevill. He is a British writer and author of many reputable books – one of them being The Ritual. A horror novel released in October 2011, the piece received noteworthy accommodation from its readers and critics. So, rather expectedly, one British production company thought it’d be a great idea to make Nevill’s story into a film.

Set to be released on Friday 13th of October to tie in with the film’s promisingly spooky contents and even more so, to my relief, the film is a British horror with some amazing British humour. A huge shout out to the scriptwriter for that. For those who have no knowledge of The Ritual, it’s a somewhat typical horror scenario. A group of old college friends reunite after the brutal murder of their friend and subsequently go hiking around Scandinavia – which is so beautifully filmed despite not being Scandinavia at all but instead, Romania – and then encounter an imminent and threatening presence which appears to be following them.

It’s perhaps best to say that The Ritual featured a couple of things which touch my heart when it comes to film. Not only was the location a desired holiday destination of mine and the setting for my favourite ever book, it was viscerally remote and much more gracefully filmed than I’d originally imagined. Asides from the obvious monster looming in the forest, the shots of the Romanian forest itself made me yearn even further for a distant, nature-based holiday. This perhaps isn’t relevant for those die-hard horror fans, but I’m sure that anyone would take some enjoyment in seeing a group of middle-aged British men attempt to hike around Sweden.

Another feature about the film that I was a fan of had to be it’s reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead. A few fans may recognise Rafe Spall after his appearance in this film too, recalling the slight similarities. The Ritual is no horrific, comedic spoof however. Whilst it’s a whole lot scarier, suspenseful and haunting – the same gritty, British humour is there. We are constantly reminded that although this is exclusively a horror film, the British like their pubs more than they like their hills – or they at least appreciate both at the same time. A horror film that you can relate to is rare and this made The Ritual even more unique.

However, these details didn’t exactly complete the film for me. Whilst The Ritual is definitely scary and contains everything you’d expect from a film of the horror genre, it became monotonous. The scenes featuring the group trudging through the woods soon became endless, repetitive and predictable which isn’t what anybody wants from a supposedly spooky horror film. The film maintains its ominous atmosphere throughout, however the lack of new developments throughout the middle of the film really weighed the entirety of it down.

Additionally, as with all films, I like many of my questions to be answered. What was that monster? Who were that family in the woods? I’d love to think that the book would provide more details. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the design of the monster was creative and different but it bothered me that I couldn’t quite work out what it was, what it wanted or where it came from and why. However, maybe that’s the point. Maybe our inhibited fear of the unknown alongside this vile beast is what makes the film so scary. If that was the creator’s intent, then amen. However, if the creator’s intent was to make something so incredibly strange that it may be categorised as ‘unique’ in the horror genre, then boo.

The Ritual was a roller coaster of a film for me – evidently. Whilst it featured so many rendezvous details that I adored, there was just as many that I detested. However, despite what I disliked, I can’t be in denial of the fact that The Ritual altogether was a good film and unlike many horror flicks – it appeared to have a moral and a thoroughly thought out story-line.

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