A Netflix horror flick released this month is catching a lot of buzz. The Ritual, a story about four friends who get lost on a hike in Sweden, has been much-hyped on horror social media pages. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Adam Nevill. For the most part, the film primarily centers around the first half of the book, when the friends encounter something ancient and menacing in the woods, which, for the most part, is unseen to the viewer. In that regard, the film uses some of the same tricks that The Blair Witch Project used- don’t show the monster. Instead, just show their reactions to twigs snapping and other creepy sounds. For a majority of the film, the monster is described only through their dialogue and leaves a lot to the imagination, which works. This allows the viewer to question whether or not they’re actually seeing and hearing something, or, is there something deeper going on. Is the monster a form of madness or grief manifested over the loss of their friend? This question is especially relevant when it comes to the protagonist, Luke (Rafe Spall), who watched their friend get killed by junkies in a convenient store. The hike is in honor of his memory. When the monster terrorizes the friends, Luke often has flashbacks of that moment when his friend was murdered and he failed to act, thus the monster is frequently associated with Luke’s grief.
The first half of the movie is generally suspenseful and has strong character build-up. The long-shots of the mountains and the woods create an eerie, moody atmosphere and makes the viewer feel like the setting is going to engulf the characters. The second half shifts the narrative somewhat when Luke encounters some locals who worship the monster. This half is not as strong, but it does not pull down the entire film.
Overall, The Ritual is a strong entry into the horror genre at the beginning of 2018. It is atmospheric, well-shot, and generally knows how to exercise some restraint regarding he use of a monster as a threat.