I know it’s cool nowadays to talk junk about The Blair Witch Project, but anyone who say that movie when it came out knows it created an amazing sense of atmosphere, and it made being lost in the woods seem downright terrifying. I bring this up, because as I was watching The Ritual last weekend, I realized it was the first movie that captured that “lost in the woods” feeling for me since Blair Witch (although The Ruins came close, and I heartily recommend it). The Ritual combines that atmosphere of isolation with some folklore and a strong dose of H.P. Lovecraft to create a film that will have you canceling you camping trips for…well, forever.
There is so much The Ritual gets right. The opening ten minutes culminate in a punch to the gut, and after that we are immediately fast forwarded into the meat of the story before the shock even subsides. The movie frays our nerves in the opening and then builds a sense of dread that will have you wanting to pause it just to give yourself a breather.
Don’t do it.
Just let that dread settle in and appreciate what the filmmakers have created. The way the woods are filmed in this movie is just absolutely brilliant. Director David Bruckner and Cinematographer Andrew Shulkind just do an amazing job of creating a truly oppressive atmosphere for this movie and I love it.
As you might imagine, things shift gears a bit again in the third act, and I’m not going to ruin any of that for you. I think your reaction to the third act will depend on what you want in terms of resolution.
The Ritual is a really, really great “lost in the woods” movie. As a New Englander and someone who has explored that theme in my own writing quite a bit, I absolutely adored this film.