(Movie Review) ‘The Ritual’ – A Fable of Sorrow and Redemption

I thought that if I was to start sharing my opinion on movies, at least I should do it with something I’m really into. What about Adam Nevill’s The Ritual? It’s got everything: cowardness, Norse mithology, dick measuring contest and redemption. The article is a huge spoiler, so, you’ve been warned.

Synopsis

Released last October, the book-based thriller directed by David Bruckner tells the story of 4 British lads going on a trip to Sweden, to commemorate the loss of their friend, who was stupidly killed by burglars in a shop, while Luke (Rafe Spall), hidden in a corner, didn’t do anything to help.The movie starts with an amazing series of Nordic landscapes and unspoken tension between the members of the group, who silently consider Luke guilty of their friend’s death. Although, no one else judges Luke more than himself.

After Dom breaks his knee, unable to continue the route, the group has to take the shortcut, through the woods, until the first civilization outpost. In the woods they encounter a disemboweled animal impaled to the trees, while weird inscriptions appear everywhere. Losing the track and with the night and the storm approaching, they find shelter in an abandoned wooden cabin.

And this is where the shit’s going apart. They all wake up during mid-night with nightmares and visible physical and psychical traumas. Tension grows between the men, while it seems clearer they are completely lost. They are more and more aware of a hidden presence, and the death of one of them occurs shortly. They soon find Hutch, probably the best of them, impaled to the trees, like the beast they found earlier. After the mysterious presence takes Phil’s life as well, the situations brings Luke (the guilt-afflicted one) and Dom (the one that judges’ Luke the most), closer than ever, acknowledging they have to work together if they’re to get out of the woods alive. Running away from the unseen creature, they find another cabin, which, as it turns out, is actually inhabited. They’re both taken prisoners by the God-forsaken cult-villagers, Dom is sacrificed to the monster which the villagers were actually worshipping, while Luke is given the choice to either join the cult or die as his friend.

Luke surprisingly overcomes his fear, burns the fucking village and manages to escape from the forest.

Review

Being a huge fan of Nordic culture, I enjoyed every bit of reference to it in the movie – the landscapes, the eerie forest atmosphere, the isolation; the Scandinavian mythology Easter eggs (runic inscriptions, ancient deities) and so on. The fact the film had actually essence is nothing but a plus to me. Luke’s a character we all can relate. I like to believe that if some bullies would try to slaughter my friend, I would stand up and fight, but we all know that in this situation, self-preservation kicks in harder than ever. To be a coward is obviously shameful, but I totally get it. Same with having a guilty consciousness.

That’s why, seeing his friends dying around him, he has to do something. He finds in fighting the creature and the cult, an opportunity to redeem himself. Dom makes him promise before his death, that he’ll burn the place when he’ll escape, and that’s exactly what he does. He couldn’t save the guy, but he honored his promise.

He doesn’t give a fuck the creature marked him as protected, based on his inner pain (as he found out), and that he could just join the locals in worshiping it and live “beyond natural life”. Luke actually destroys the sanctuary and runs away. There’s this pinnacle scene where, finally being facing this god, Luke stands up to it. The creature forces him to kneel couple times, showing him that he is stronger and that Luke’s life depends on him bowing his head.

But either because he felt like being punished, he didn’t care of his life anymore or he actually grew some balls, Luke raises from the ground, flipping the monster one more time and sticking an axe in it. After that, he runs and finally reaches the end of the forest, where obviously, the god can follow him. The roaring monster is challenged even then, when Luke screams at it, showing to the loser deity he can roar too, and proving that fear and spiritual pain combined are what courage is actually made of.

References

The creature in the movie, as explained by one of the characters (Sara) is a Jötunn, a bastard offspring of Loki, the malicious Nordic God. The Jötunn have an ambiguous origin and covers a wide spectrum of powers, being also referred to as nature gods, risi, thurs and trolls.

The deity present in the film for example, has the power of changing his appearance to anything based on victim’s life and experiences, taking advantage of people’s weaknesses and exploiting them. It also blesses its worshippers with long, painless lives.

Favorite Quotes

“Dom: He has his skull cracked in half, and you come out of there without a drop of blood on you!

“Luke: There are three of us. And there is one of it. And I’ve got a fucking knife.

“Dom: I don’t want to die alone. Luke: Look at me! I’m not going to leave you, OK?

“Dom: You don’t stop. You keep going. You live.

“Luke: Why me? Sara: Your pain is great.

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Romanian self-taught writer, based in Cyprus, interested in contemporary art, unconventional culture and gonzo journalism. Writing for almost a decade, he is agnostic, supports a censorship-free society and reads way less than he wants.

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