A small and surprisingly effective horror film.
Sometimes it's the ones you expect the least from that surprise you the most. "The Ritual" is a quality film that mixes strong visuals, a good lead performance from Rafe Spall, and some interesting human drama and supernatural fare to create an enjoyable and satisfying horror flick. The film centers around a group of four buddies who go on a hiking trip to get away from it all after tragedy befalls their group. I won't spoil the tragedy but it is an effective piece of motivation that also leads to some enjoyable character drama between members of the group. The main character, Lucas (played by a very good Rafe Spall), feels personally guilty for this tragedy and it haunts him. The film really leans into this in a very good way because it does a lot to ground the film and keep it believable, even when it starts to get a little mystical.
The other great piece of building this movie does early in its runtime is it invested me in this group of four using their chemistry. Each member of the group talks and feels like a real person, It felt like I'd seen and heard these guys banter before in real life and that's one of the film's many strengths. It's just a group of friends trying to have fun and enjoy life until some force comes after them and causes a lot of bad shit to happen and everybody can relate to that. There are some issues with the group like one of the members is criminally underserved as a character. But it isn't super glaring as the main focus is still on Spall's Lucas.
Spall plays this character with a self-awareness that you rarely find in horror movies and it makes the role. When someone says something that is odd or does something odd he doesn't go along with it, he looks quizzically into the distance as if silently saying, "Is this a real thing that is happening?" He feels like a real person and that is much to Spall and the film's credit, we can see what he is going through and are able to root for him because of it.
I don't want to get into the film's plot (no spoilers here!) but it is pretty cool and I like where it goes. While the film does begin to get a little sluggish about 3/4ths of the way through it does pick back up and is able to finish strong. This is a good, efficient horror flick that is well worth its 94-minute runtime. "The Ritual" is on Netflix now.
Al Pacino Rating: