Well I have to say I am a little perplexed by ‘Ritual’. The movie on one hand is better than it really has any right to be and on the other hand, underneath all its flaws this movie has, lies something that if a few things were tweaked/written differently could have elevated ‘Ritual’ to a real classic of a horror film. So where does this leave ‘Ritual’ exactly? Well, it is flawed just enough to keep the movie from becoming a cult classic but not to the point of making the movie trash bin material either. Which kind of makes ‘Ritual’ a unique kind of viewing.
The movie starts off with what appears to be a 1950’s style beach setting in which we are introduced to Lovely, the main female lead of the movie in what appears to the first meeting between her and her husband Tom. We then are sent to a scene of open highway passing in the night and we hear a phone call of a sobbing Lovely, calling her now estranged husband Tom, who seems less than thrilled to be hearing from her. But Lovely is crying, sobbing and begging Tom to come meet her at some rag tag hotel. To which he finally agrees.
Tom arrives at the hotel only to find Lovely with blood all over her and what appears to be a dead man in the room. What at first looks like a movie in which you have a pair of people trying to cover up a murder turns into something far worse when they find out a little bit about the dead man in the hotel room via a camcorder they find in the guys trunk.
What Tom and Lovely find themselves in next is some twisted plot by a cult to sacrifice people for some devilish reason. What the film kind of stumbles around with, is how it conveys all this. The film is very retro grade in terms of the visuals it tries to show the viewer while relaying the story which is fine in this department. I get the feeling the film is paying homage to the 70’s exploitation/horror films while also giving a nod to Halloween III, as odd as that sounds. This is both great and also one of the flaws the film has because while those 70’s films have a grainy dirty feel to them they also were not great vehicles of storytelling and ‘Ritual’ seems to carry over not only the visuals but also the story telling issues those movies had as well.
While I understand what the film makers were trying to do, such as leaving certain parts of the past eluded to in the film open for interpretation to make the viewer think, it also was a bit shaky in this area when dealing with the history of Tom and Lovely. I think this also had to do with the actor who played Tom’s acting ability. He seemed stiff and kind of fake and generally not a good fit for this role. So this did not really help with the story between the two leads. Also there were some logic holes I just found kind of dumb. Such as other people in the hotel never seeming to be alerted to anything going on and how in one scene a victim is just gut punched off camera and brought out in full view and killed? I’m not sure about that. If the hotel was in on everything maybe…but this was never eluded to, at all.
Despite the flaws though I still found ‘Ritual’ compelling, odd and engaging. I liked the atmosphere is conveyed…or tried to and the story, it TRIED to tell.
Many people on IMDB have trashed the movie with a very low rating. I however think it is better than what the rating shows there but also don’t expect some superior hidden gem either. Just expect a movie that can give you a ‘Strange WTF is going on here?’ watch and you will be pleasantly surprised.