Netflix released the film "The Ritual" (2017) today on Netflix Instant (streaming). It is a supernatural horror film that reminded me of a couple of other horror films, but was original in its own right. The film is based on a book by Adam Nevill, which was published in 2011.
The film starts out in a pub, where five friends are discussing where they'd like to go for their next vacation together. Ideas are thrown out, naming popular vacation destinations, but none of the group seems interested in any of the ideas until someone suggests that they go hiking in Sweden. The group leaves the pub, and one of the men decides he'd like to go into a local liquor store to buy some vodka. One of his friends goes inside with him, while the others stay outside and wait.
While the man and his friend are inside the store talking, they notice a woman behind the counter near the cash register. She has bruises on her face and looks to have been beaten. They hear voices coming from what looks to be the manager's office, and soon see two men who are obviously robbing the store. The men don't notice them at first because they are talking to another employee or possibly the owner. Noticing they are distracted, the man backs away and bumps into a shelf of liquor, which rattles the bottles and alerts the robbers to their presence. The man had just enough time to hide himself from the robbers, but didn't give his friend time to hide, so the two robbers start to mug his friend. His friend hands over everything on his person, yet when the robbers ask for his ring, he refuses their request. His friend gets attacked and killed by the robbers, while the man looks on, completely hidden. This encounter continues to be a theme throughout the movie, as the man continues to feel guilty for his part in his friend's death.
The four remaining friends meet up and go on the hiking trip as a tribute to their fallen friend. They hike over rather large hills, and seem exhausted before they get to a large stack of rocks, where they make a shrine to honor their friend. The friends drink to their friend and decide to head back to the lodge where they were staying. While going down a slope, one of the friends who had a prior knee injury missteps and injures his knee very badly. The friends decide that they should not risk going the way that they came as it would take more time, so they choose to take a shortcut through the dense forest that lay ahead, thus cutting their walking time in half.
While they are walking, they notice that it is taking a lot longer than they thought it would. After a heavy downpour begins, they find a house and decide to spend the night there. At this point, things just go from bad to worse.
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*Spoilers in the discussion*
I thought this film was well done. From the very beginning of the film, I felt as if I knew each one of the characters, and was with them at every point in the movie. Each of the characters were easy for me to like, despite their flaws. I believed in every single character and felt very empathetic towards each person. I worried about each one of them and understood each character's motives throughout the film.
Is It Scary?
I wouldn't say it was scary. I felt more anxious and sad throughout the film than scared. However, there was a part in the film that was very creepy to me. When the pouring rain forced the men into a house they'd discovered, I felt very worried for them because it was sort of similar to how the characters in The Blair Witch Project found the house in the woods, seemingly out of nowhere. The house was creepy inside as well. There were runes in the house, which added to the uneasiness of the atmosphere in the house.
Much like The Blair Witch Project, I had a bad feeling about them being in the house, and worried about the characters spending the night there. I like in movies where the writer and director can make you feel a lot of anxiety by making it so the characters have no place to go for safety, and I felt empathy towards the characters when they didn't have a safe place to rest for the night.
After the men left the house, I felt a slight lift in emotion, only to be brought down again when I saw that something outside of the house had knocked down a bunch of trees around the house. It was creepy to know that the men couldn't stay in the house, yet might not make it out of the woods before nightfall safely. The isolation and panic the characters felt while in the woods, being stalked by an unknown entity was palpable, and I felt anxious throughout their journey.
All in all, I'd say that if you liked The Blair Witch Project, you'd probably like this film, although this film has a little more gore than The Blair Witch Project.
Does it Have Any Disturbing Scenes?
Yes. There is a scene where a man gets mugged, then his face is slashed with a machete twice. He raises up after the first slash and you can see his wound (not up close though) and some blood. A woman is shown with a bruised face after getting beaten by robbers (you don't see her get beaten up though). A man twists his knee and his knee is shown throughout the film swollen, red, and bruised (it is never shown very close up though and there are no gross sound effects). A man gets blisters on his feet after wearing new boots and talks about how his feet are getting worse (nothing is shown). An animal (possibly an elk) is shown hung between trees with its torso gutted and entrails on the ground. Blood is shown dripping from its hooves. A man is shown with five bloody holes on his chest. The holes are about the size of a pea, and there is some blood coming from the holes (not a lot though). A man is heard screaming as he is murdered, but it is not shown. One man is shown hung between trees with his torso gutted. His face is shown close up once he is lowered to the ground and he looks deceased. A man is mentally tortured upstairs in a house and you can hear his screams. A woman is murdered by a creature and her eyes are mutilated. The eyes are bulged out and bloody, but not shown up close.
How Does it End?
In the film, the guys are stalked relentlessly by a very large unknown entity after sleeping in the house they came across in the woods. When they first entered the house, they noticed runes that looked like they were made out of wood hanging from the ceiling. One of them went upstairs to find something to make a fire with, and found what looked to be a person made out of sticks, but with antlers for hands and no head. While sleeping in the house, each of the men had a very vivid nightmare. The main character had a nightmare about being in the store where his friend was murdered, and wakes up outside of the house with five bloody holes on his chest. Another man had a nightmare about his wife. Another man was so scared he urinated while sleeping, and the last man (the man who found the weird thing upstairs) was found naked in the room with thing he found, bent over and praying to it.
The men leave the house very scared, and argue about where to head to next. After the creature picks them off one by one, two men are left and make it to yet another house, this time inhabited by people. They are both knocked unconscious, and one man is sacrificed to the deity, and the other man is told that he is going to be trapped in the forest with the other people who live there and be made to worship the deity.
The woman who tells the man that he will have to stay also has five bloody holes on her chest, which seems to mean that the people who bear those marks have been "chosen" by the deity. The man decides that he does not want to be trapped in that place, so he fights his way out and hurts the creature as much as he can by shooting it and slicing it with an ax.
The creature slams him to the ground a couple of times during this fight, and doesn't really hurt him. It seems to want to be worshiped, as several times it raises up almost like it is posing. The man eventually turns and runs, and once out of the forest, he realizes that the creature is tied to the forest, and cannot hurt him anymore, thus ending the film.
What Did the Creature/Deity Look Like?
Honestly, it looked a lot like a Fiend in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It also reminded me of a Leshen from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt a little bit, too. Besides looking like those creatures, it was very strange looking, because although the body looked mostly like a fiend, it had human arms near its face, and if it raised up on hind legs, it looked like the thing the men saw in the first house found in the woods and slept in.
If you have any questions about the movie, please feel free to ask.