The Ritual (2017)
Review by Annie Riordan
I’d heard an awful lot of hype about this Netflix original.
So I watched it.
Why do I keep doing stupid shit like that?
Four British mates – Hutch (the handsome one), Luke (the guilt-ridden one), Dom (the whiny twat, which rhymes with prat and both apply), and Phil (the vaguely Mideastern looking one) – journey to Norway to honor the memory of their recently deceased friend. Their dead friend is Rob, the best of them, who so desperately wanted to go hiking through Sweden and Norway with his best friends on their next holiday. But because Luke was a total pisspants coward, Rob died needlessly upon inadvertently interrupting a liquor store hold up. Luke blames himself. His friends do too, although nobody says this aloud. Six months later, Luke packs all of his guilt in his backpack and trudges into the North with his remaining mates. There’s your backstory, now on with the show.
Yeah, this is welcoming af.
These woods and hills bear a suspicious resemblance to Fanghorn Forest. And since Andy Serkis was a producer, I immediately suspect New Zealand standing in for Sweden. But I’m wrong. It’s Romania. Okay, fine. Why couldn’t they have just filmed in Sweden? Or Norway? Not finding fault, just curious.
The Twat – being a prat – takes a pratfall and immediately starts whining about his man baby booboo. Hey, someone had to fall and hurt themselves, and there’s no women around so we’ll go with the next best thing – an overweight, bespectacled bag of lard with a gaping cryhole. Another guy (I already forget who) points to a map and basically says: “Oh hey look! A shortcut through the spooky woods, let’s go die there!”
Nordic God or coat rack? You decide.
In short order, the guys fuck off into the Stock Footage Forest and immediately discover a whole shitpile of cast-off from about a dozen other horror films. They find an elk hanging in the trees and weird runes all over the place (Blair Witch). Then it starts to rain and they happen upon The Evil Dead cabin. It’s leaky and long-abandoned, and there’s a human torso fashioned out of sticks with antlers for hands just chilling around upstairs that looks a lot like one of my abandoned art projects. The night is dark and stormy. The storm is night and darky. And the dark is….you get the idea.
Luke the Coward wakes up abruptly, knee deep in a nightmare about watching his friend Rob get killed all over again. His other friends are having similar experiences: Dom is crouched in a corner, screaming his wife’s name. Hutch has righteously pissed himself. And Phil is upstairs, naked, prone before the Mervyn’s mannequin from Hell as if in prayer. Understandably freaked out, the guys decide to blow the woods and make for the nearest pub. In the meantime, Luke’s resemblance to Guy Pearce in Ravenous is starting to annoy me.
People start dying, the survivors start panicking and Luke gets called out for his cowardice in front of everyone and blamed for Rob’s death. So there’s your motivation: coward must somehow face his fear and conquer it. The dwindling band slam headfirst into Haggis’s shack in Pumpkinhead and are promptly taken prisoner. It turns out there’s a bunch of immortal Swedes living deep in the woods, worshipping a bastard deity without a name (they say they don’t say its name, but if no one ever says it, wouldn’t it have been forgotten by now?) who forces them to worship it and offer it sacrifices in return for unending lives looking like the forebears of the Deliverance locals who never got around to emigrating. Also, there’s no plumbing and everyone looks like they smell really bad. If I’m going to be immortal, I want hot water and soap, okay?
A Møøse once bit my sister… No realli!
Anyway, at long last, our monster emerges from the shadows and…it’s a really big moose? Or maybe an elk. With a male torso for a face and a sort of Jawa hood with glowy eyes. Now we see what Luke is up against, and it’s borderline goofy. I always thought of immortal Norse Gods being more…regal, I guess.
Gaahl… not a Majestic Moose.
The build-up to this reveal has been reasonably spooky and atmospheric, but it’s a bit like being constipated, eating a sackful of Taco Bell to combat it, and then waiting for an hour and twenty minutes, listening to your guts grumble and threaten, only to produce the tiniest mouse squeak of a fart and nothing else. There is absolutely no pay off, and no comeuppance for anyone deserving of it. I honestly found the Battle of the Bloody Bunnies scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail scarier than this movie’s scorchingly listless climax. I could have had sex with an actual British man and been less disappointed by the outcome. Henceforth, any hype I hear in connection with a Netflix original horror movie shall be vigorously pissed upon with great amounts of asparagus consumed beforehand.
Shit, next time have a bunch of tourists accidentally wander into Gaahl’s house. That would be scarier.