It is great to have a British film and, even more so, a bunch of varied British accents, on show for a change. The Ritual is an adaptation of an Adam Nevill novel of the same name, directed by David Bruckner. We follow a group of mates, grown up but their friendship dates back to their University days. One of their group is brutally killed when he walks into an off-licence that is being robbed while the other that is with him, hides in cowardice.
Following on from that, the remaining friends agree to a trip to Sweden in memory of their fallen friend, to see him off in a proper way, doing something that he would have wanted. All well and good so far, but a careless accident leaves one of the group unable to walk very well so they decide to take a shortcut back through the forest, instead of taking the longer path around it.
As far as horror films go, everyone will know that forests are not good places to be going into, even if it is a shortcut. Things go wrong, directions get muddled and the presence of a stag hoisted 10 feet up in a tree with its entrails hanging out is pretty much a good sign to not be there at all! And then the lightning and storms come and it continues to get worse for them from there on.
The biggest name in this is Rafe Spall and I have liked him in most of the roles that I have seen him in, and most of those were slightly lighter in tone so it was good to see him in a more serious role. The other actors (Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton, Arsher Ali) I hadn’t seen before but were equally good in the standard horror film roles as the serious/sensible one, the joker and the arse (or the one that they aren’t sure why they are still friends with).
What follows is a growing creeping dread that they are being hunted by something that they can’t ever quite catch sight of. The tension created in this film works pretty well. The slow reveal, acknowledging the situation that they are in, the heightening fear in the party all work well to give this film the correct tone and nothing is played for laughs. The ending I found was a little bit disappointing, too much reveal for me weakens the rest of the film, but overall this is a successful survival horror/thriller that doesn’t do anything particularly new but does the basics well enough to get a reaction and to feel fresh.