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Review: The Ritual

Strong lead performance elevates familiar material

After cutting his teeth by directing segments on anthology features like TIFF Midnight Madness alum Southbound and V/H/S, director David Bruckner makes his feature length directorial debut with The Ritual. Also bowing at Midnight Madness, The Ritual is based on the world renown book of the same name by Adam Nevill.

4 friends take a pilgrimage to the Northern Swedish Highlands to honour a friend who passed away during a horrific robbery gone wrong. The group starts to show cracks in their bond as they get lost in the woods. Stumbling across a decrepit and derelict cabin, they take shelter for the night. But once they wake the next day they find they have awoke a menacing presence and must do everything they can to get out of the woods alive.

The ritual owes a lot to its leading man Rafe Spall. While all four of the men in this group are effective, the film rests mainly on the shoulders of Spall, and he proves more than up to the task. Spall infuses his performance with guilt and dread, tortured by flashbacks of the incident and self doubt over his in action.  Bruckner does a decent job in directing the action, even if the film suffers slightly from pacing issues in spaces. Heavily drawing influences from films like The Wicker Man, another Midnight Madness alum in Kill List and a slew of ‘lost in the woods’ films,  Bruckner still manages to create and original take on the genre and provides some truly creepy imagery.

3.5