Netflix recently released The Ritual, a film described as terrifying and stunning. Is the David Bruckner film really scary or is it way too far in the woods?
In case you weren’t paying attention, Netflix, in addition to countless series and specials, is also making its own original movies. One of the latest is the new horror movie, The Ritual. There are so many movies when surfing through Netflix (let’s be honest) that sometimes it can be hard to keep track. Random movies, including dozens of horror movies, will likely get overlooked through a nightly scan. But hidden in all those choices are some true gems. The Ritual, from director David Bruckner, is one of them.
At first glance, this British film about four friends who go on a hiking trip in Sweden in honor of a friend’s death seems like a formulaic horror movie. One in which a hike in the woods goes terribly wrong. While that is generally the premise, what The Ritual does is give us a very cool, very scary villain, in the form of a truly frightening monster.
Rather then tease us until one final, climatic scene the film gives us snippets of this beast. And the snippets are pretty scary — even for this horrorphile. This monster’s particular method of homicide seems to be gutting, and then hanging by your limbs in the trees.
A group of friends goes on a hike to pay homage to their murdered friend who recently died during a brutal robbery. One which also happened while one of the other best friends, Luke, stood hidden, only feet away (having narrowly moved behind an aisle, we see Luke escaping conflict, but, it will turn out, not guilt).
Shortly into their hiking trip, things start to go awry. First, they’re faced with a stunning image of some animal form hanging from a tree. Shortly after that, they stumble upon a house where they attempt to find refuge, only to learn that it’s filled with witchcraft and apparently possesses the ability to make them worship it too. Not exactly your ideal camping trip.
Slowly, we see that this monster is not only frightening in physical form; part tree, part human parts, but also in mental capacity. It can make you not only worship it, but see the things that torment you. A theme that has been explored in horror before, but not quite with the same tone.
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This monster feels slightly different from ones we’ve seen before. For one, it feels a bit more mysterious. We don’t know much about this evil entity in the woods, and unlike other films, learning its origins is not going to help you destroy or overcome it. This time, the evil dude is in control. Also, those aforementioned early previews of the monster itself. The Ritual’s greatness isn’t in some final reveal (although it is quite a reveal!), but in the unfolding of the being, and what it’s doing there in the forest.
The Ritual might be a bit generic in location, even title, but in meaning, it turns out to have some real depth. In a world where horror is currently reigning, and still hard to perfect, this monster gets it right. The fact that we never seem to get a complete back story only adds to his intrigue. And perhaps, a sequel.