The latest Netflix original horror film is about a group of guys who venture out into the woods and end up leaving the trail, leading them to get hopelessly lost in a forest that gives them the ooks and spooks. As stereotypical as this sounds, "The Ritual" is actually a compelling and thrilling horror film that keeps us thinking there is something paranormal under our seats.
Luke, Phil, Hutch and Dom, a group of besties, decide to take a hiking trip in honor of their friend, Robert, who was viciously murdered during a robbery. Robert always wanted to go hiking with his friends, so they take the adventure to honor his wishes. Luke (Rafe Spall) was present at the incident and feels completely responsible for his friend's death, an incident that haunts him throughout their trip. However, the entire group experiences something beyond normality as they are constantly stalked by a terrifying and mysterious creature.
Quite often, stereotypical haunted-forest stories have characters that behave as if they have never lived before, random jump scares and plot twists that leave us more disappointed than excited. "The Ritual" is, at times, similar to those types of films, but it does a much better job at leaving us satisfied and creeped out. The eerie visuals of the inhuman forest and the distressing sounds of the lurking creature make us peer over our own shoulders, until we realize we're just watching a movie.
The movie does have characters that consistently make bad decisions, but that's one of the things we want in a horror film, right? Without those bad decisions, there is no horror. How fun would "The Shining" be if they spent one night in the hotel and decided to leave because they sensed something was wrong?
Closer to the end of "The Ritual," the disappointment starts to kick in a bit as the plot starts to go off the rails and drag. Still, it doesn't have a strong enough effect to ruin the film. Especially in the horror genre, endings can completely take away the creep factor of the rest of the film, but this movie doesn't quite do that. Though it drags a bit in the third act, it still remains intense and mysterious.
"The Ritual" is a breath of fresh air for the horror genre, a genre that is quite often overlooked and underappreciated. While it's no "Rosemary's Baby" or "The Exorcist," it does fulfill the need for a fun, horror-filled evening at home after dinner.
Best scene: Luke's first sight of the creature
Dumbest decision: The decision to take "the scenic route."
Scariest scene: When the creature is revealed to us