Director David Bruckner will be known among horror fans for the most memorable chapters of both The Signal and V/H/S. Now he’s back with this tale of a Swedish hiking holiday gone wrong. As they say in Sweden: Mamma Mia!
Like The Descent, this British horror film opens with a brutal tragedy that sends our protagonists on an adventurous escape holiday, only for their unresolved guilt to catch up with them. That said, it lacks The Descent‘s surprising elements, falling back on genre clichés and sub-Blair Witch material. In fact it’s so Blairite that I kept expecting Liz Kendall to jump out from behind a tree. Now that would be scary.
Bruckner’s direction is effective, prioritising atmospherics over jumps, through ominous, mountainous scenery and mystical monster effects. The performances are nicely observed, particularly the ever watchable Rafe Spall and his wonderfully haunted turn, while the fraught dynamics between the characters make this camping trip incredibly in tents.
At first the folk horror is complemented by sardonic British humour, in the style of Edgar Wright or Ben Wheatley, but the comedy is only at the beginning and then that’s all. Folks. Without it, the film feels much more generic. Screenwriter Joe Barton may have thought it unrealistic to keep the wisecracks coming once the boys were scared shitless, even though there’s nothing realistic about Spall taking terrifying shortcuts through the woods and breaking into creepy cabins. Idiot. Or as they say in Sweden… idiot.
Based on a novel by Adam Nevill and co-produced by Andy Serkis, The Ritual is a serviceably spooky story about getting older and losing friendships. But fans of Scandi-horror are probably better off waiting for Halloween when I hope to release a crossover movie called Jig-Thor.