The Ritual Review (2017) - Dude, where's my Wendigo?
RATING: 6.5 /10 Dead Friends In The Woods.
Yeah, okay, I'm late to the party - sue me. 2021 has some incredible movies coming down the pipe, but that doesn't mean that we can't take some time to enjoy the literal smorgasbord of content available out there on all our streaming services. I got a lot to catch up on. Speaking of rituals, nothing says "Sunday night," to me like curling up to a good movie while recovering from any mistakes I may have made during the weekend. But I digress; Netflix's 2017 adaptation of Adam Nevills horror novel "The Ritual" I found to be a surprisingly fun romp in the woods with your friendly neighborhood monster and is the kind of casual horror I genuinely enjoy. Directed by David Bruckner (The Night House, Southbound), The Ritual is the retelling of the timeless story of a group of friends who make the really dumb decision to go into the creepy cabin in the woods. Okay, it's a little more sophisticated than that, but, really, when you boil it down, it's not that different. Throw a little "Blair Witch" and "Call of Cthulhu" in, and you're basically there. While normally this type of thematic setting is relegated to the likes of slashers and usually involves at least one half-naked hot-chick, The Ritual has fun and instead takes up out for a romp with the boys. It's still the familiar cast you all know and love: there's the charismatic leader boy, There's Arnold "I knew I should've stayed home today," from the magic school-bus, a good-intentioned and vulnerable protagonist who will ultimately overcome his fears, and of course - there's a cult. Because, of course, there is. That said, I found the friendship between the leading men to be the most believable I've seen in ages for a horror flick, and all the more so for some reason because they were British. The plot of the Ritual is nothing new, but Bruckner does a great job of using atmosphere and very little in the way of FX until the end of the movie. He allows the plot to develop in a true Lovecraftian fashion, allowing the viewer and, in turn, the protagonists to speculate on the horror they've become a party to. This reminds me of the second big reason I like this movie, which is its monster. We got ourselves a Wendigo, folks. Well, not quite, actually, but it may as well be. Technically we're in Sweden, so sure, let's make it Viking. The book clearly outlines the creature as one of the Jotün from Norse mythology (later given the name Moder) and is the bastard offspring of the god Loki (probably not the Tom Hiddleston variant, though). I thought the minotaur from Greek Mythology got it bad but hot damn; this thing is ugly. It looks like the disastrous results of an attempted threesome with a moose, a man, and an elephant. But that's the beauty of it. When the reveal is made, and you are looking at this creature for the first time, your brain is desperately trying to wrap its head around what it's looking at. It's foreign and uncomfortable and sends your mind reeling into what other creatures may exist in this world. It's precisely because of this satisfying and compelling reveal that you're willing to forgive its linear storytelling. We get just enough context to make it genuinely a little spooky. So, in summary, The Ritual is a far cry from something new, but I'd argue it's not trying to be. It knows what it is, a retelling of a familiar story, and it leans into it, to give audiences a fun experience with just enough suspense, anticipation, some cheap scares, and a solid climax.