Netflix’s The Ritual is an atmospheric horror film.
Produced by Andy Serkis, The Ritual was shot in Romania and was originally released overseas in October 2017.
Director David Bruckner, who has given such great horror films recently like V/H/S, Southbound, & The Signal, delivers a thrilling survival horror film starring Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton, and Paul Reid.
The streaming service broke down the film in a bio released to Salute.
“Reuniting after the tragic death of their best mate, four old friends from university set out to hike through the Scandinavian wilderness. But a wrong turn leads them into the dark and mysterious forests of Norse legend, where an ancient evil still exists and stalks them at every turn.”
While conversing over a few drinks at a pub, longtime friends Luke, Hutch, Robert, Dom, and Phil try to decide where to go for a “guy-cation.” When Robert suggests something other than Vegas its met with groans and eye rolls. Robert suggests hiking along the King’s Trail that runs between Sweden and Norway.
Robert and Luke stop into a convenience store and their discussion is interrupted by a robbery in process. When Luke cowers behind a store shelf, Robert is left alone, frozen with fear. The robbers loot Robert of his watch and wallet. Luke looks on shivering with fright.
The robbers bash in Robert’s head for not handing over his wedding ring. Robert’s head wound bleeds out all over the store floor as the robbers run off.
Fast forward to some time later and the four remaining friends are hiking up the trail Robert had suggested. In remembrance for their lost friend. At the top of a mountain, they leave a vigil in his honor. Luke carries the heavy burden of not being brave enough to save his friend when he had the chance. As night falls, Hutch looks at the horizon and see’s they’re destination in sight.
The solemn group makes their way down the mountain until Dom falls and severely hurts his leg. This causes them to have to re-route their course to accommodate Dom’s injury. The route takes them deep into a forest. A forest that Dom points out to be devoid of sound.
They come across a deer that had been ripped open. Strung up in a tree as if it were crucified with its entrails beneath it. Luke discovers the blood still fresh dripping from the dead animal. They decide to try and get through the forest as quickly as possible trying to avoid running into whatever could or would do that to an animal.
When a thunderous storm halts their hike, the group becomes desperate to find shelter. Luke sees weirdly carved symbols crudely etched into a tree. Beyond the tree is an old decrypted cabin. Hutch and Phil bust the door down. They decide to stay the night despite Luke’s reservations. The group begins settling in as Luke cautiously scan the outside hearing ominous sounds.
Luke discovers the same symbols in the house that he saw on the tree outside. The group laugh off the possibility of it being some kind of voodoo or witchcraft and believe it more likely to be the work of some crazy hillbillies. When Phil investigates the upstairs he stumbles into a room with a figure made of straw holding antlers up to the sky in what looks like a form of worship. Suddenly the jokes about the supernatural turn into legitimate concern and fear.
During the night, each of the friends is beset upon by horrible visions. None more unsettling than Luke’s. Luke is taken back to the moment of Robert’s death. When Luke is able to awake from the vision’s trance, he discovers what appears to be some form of a slash across his chest.
Luke hears his friends suffering from similar terrors. But none of the groups’ tormenting is more horrifying or degrading as Phil’s.
Phil is stripped naked and forced on his knees in a worshiping position in front of the straw figure upstairs. Hutch points to the trees surrounding the cabin now all covered with the symbols they discovered in the cabin. The group leaves the cabin at first light.
They hope the trail they set upon next is the fastest to get them home. When Luke scouts ahead to a ridge to see how much further they are from their destination. Luke is shocked to see another maze of trees and brush. Angered and disheartened he staggers back until he sees a hand on a tree move revealing a hidden figure amongst the trees.
Luke rushes back to his group but the day is gone and once again they are forced to spend the night in the forest. When the creature invades their camp, Hutch is taken away in the shadows of the forest. The three remaining friends discover his dismembered body flayed wide open. Just like the deer they had seen upon entering the forest.
Continuing on the path, Luke, Phil, and Dom help each trek through the harsh environment. When Luke scouts ahead to see how far away they are he discovered man-made fire pits burning in the distance. The creature ambushes the group, swiping up Phil and dragging him off. When Luke and Dom run off into the night blindly they come across a path of fiery torches illuminating the night.
The path leads them to another run down cabin. When they barge in they see what looks like an old woman praying to some kind of idol. The cabin is lit with ceremonial candles. Luke and Dom are seized and taken to a shed where they are kept as prisoners.
The following morning Luke looks through the holes of the cabin to discover a cult of some kind making preparations. When they take Dom to be sacrificed to the creature, a cult girl explains to Luke just what the creature is. She calls it a Jötunn.
In Norse mythology its a great deer with massive antlers and human hands attached to its mouth, and which sacrificially kills humans who get lost in the woods. The girl describes it as a bastard child of the Norse God, Loki. The cult worships it as their deity. When the creature comes for Dom that night, Luke does everything he can to get free. Luke refuses to die in these woods.
Dom is tied to a sacrificial pole and the creature kills him. When Luke gets free he see’s the last of his friend drug off into the night. Luke makes his way upstairs to discover another room filled with straw people mixed with rotting corpses.
When Luke sets the room on fire, it draws the attention of the Jötunn back to the cabin. Luke runs past a room filled with old camping materials left behind by previous victims. He grabs a rifle and blasts his way out of the cabin. As the cabin burns down the Jötunn is furious and takes his anger out on the cult who fall to their knees in fear.
When Luke shoots one of the cultists out of the grasps of the angered Jötunn, the creature looks eyes with him and chases him into the forest. With the end of the forest in sight, Luke wills himself to the light of the morning shining through the darkness.
Luke is able to fend off the creature with a blunt ax he had taken from the cabin. When Luke escapes the creature howls in defiance, unable to follow Luke into the light as the film ends.
Overall this film was a pleasant surprise. At first glance, it looks like it could be written off as a Blair Witch-wannabe. However, the inclusion of a unique creature like the Norse Jötunn saves the third act of the film from becoming run of the mill “run away from the unseen demon” ending. The creature is as terrifying as it is captivating to look at. This is one horror film that will have viewers thinking twice about camping in the woods.
Watch: The Ritual Trailer