Thursday, April 12, 2018

the ritual [2017]

five college chums have an evening getting pissed in the local pub.  they are in their mid to late 30s.  they all have successful careers, happy marriages, and children.  they plan for a lads' summer holiday.  why the fuck not.  they have the money.  they have the time.  their partners are supportive, their children are cool with daddy being away for a few weeks.   these are long time friends.  so where to go?  ibiza?  fuck that.  las vegas.  been there, done that.  hiking the trails of northern sweden?  now you're talking!

so off go our chaps to bond, drink and hike in the swedish woods located just a bit outside the arctic circle.  you might be thinking that his is a raunchy comedy where these five dudes stumble into comic adventures as they moan about their predictable lives, only to return to a greater appreciation of what they already have.   you would think that, would you.  and you would be wrong.  for this is a horror film.  the title should have given that part away.

before these blokes head off to their swedish adventure they experience a great tragedy that will haunt them on their trek.  i don't want to give it away.  but even the tragedy is predictable.  this ain't a flick we haven't seen before.  and yet, the filmmaker, david bruckner, manages to take hackneyed material and make a movie that is filled with creeepy atmosphere.

you see as our lads drink, cuss, and swing their dumb asses thru sweden they must contend with their guilt that stems from the aforementioned tragedy.  and as is usually the case, one of our men carries more than his share of guilt.  director bruckner does a pretty nifty job building that guilt in physical expression.  so when one member of our group twists the fuck out of his knee they decide to take a shortcut.  a shortcut thru a patch of very dark woods.

now remember the title of this movie.  'the ritual'.  what the fuck does that mean?  do you know old norse myths.  me neither!  and i'm three quarters norwegian.  my grandma is from bergen, norway [i shit you not.  that lady had a house filled with trolls.  i thought they were the decorations of an eccentric lady.  i was wrong.  for when i finally visited norway i found trolls, in doll form, and more, everywhere.  trolls are a norwegian obsession].

but then anyway, our lads find themselves the subjects of an ancient swedish norse ritual.  there is a creature -- a creature!  -- that lives in the woods.  and that creature, or god, or whatever, is not a troll, but is worshiped by a family who might be as old as the vikings of another millenia.  our blokes find ancient runes, runic writing, and other symbols, in the vacant cabin they find on their first night, and in the woods as they try to find their way back to civilization.

i've seen this movie before but filmmaker david bruckner keeps things tense so a long shot of the woods produces enough dread to keep my blood pressure high.  even with bruckner's skill in keeping my heart racing i kept wondering how can an ancient norse cult, with its attendant god that demands human sacrifice, survive that last century without detection?  the 20th century taught us that the world is large, but not such a big place.  disappear in the woods?  you, or your body, will be found.  monster in the woods?  yep, that asshole will be found too.

at any rate, i couldn't help but enjoy this flick.  the principals are all game and good actors.  the photography is lovely.  the editing is sharp.  and the script has a good sound.  if you want a movie for date night this flick should be on the top of your list for you and your honey will be holding on to each other for dear life as we watch these dumb ass, and yet likable, lads sort thru their paces as the newest victims of the ritual. 


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