Tag Archives: The Witch

THE RITUAL

“…going with the concept of it’s not what you see, it’s what you don’t see, [The Ritual] sustains a fairly decent level of suspense for the most part.”

Wayward Wolf.

The Ritual tells the tale of four close friends who find themselves hiking through the hills of Sweden.

Curiously, this is not actually even their idea – far from it in fact – but a trip organised in memoriam, Robert (Paul Reid), a recently departed friend, tragically killed when caught up in the middle of a violent robbery.

Amsterdam, Ibiza and Berlin. These were the more realistic ideas mooted by the collective on an evening when Robert’s suggestion of hiking had gone down like a lead balloon.

Still, here they are, traipsing across the Swedish countryside on a trip that is particularly poignant for Luke (Rafe Spall). He too had been caught up in the robbery, but hidden behind a stack of shelves and frozen with fear, he had failed to summon up the courage to intervene. Consequently, Luke had watched his friend be bludgeoned to death by an assailant armed with a baseball bat.

This level of guilt, and an inner paranoia that his close friends all blame him for Robert’s demise, play heavily upon Luke’s mind.

It’s an interesting back story, and offers The Ritual a little more depth than your average horror / thriller. That said, if this initial premise had in any way mislead you into believing that what was to follow would be high on originality, you are sadly mistaken.

When you boil it all down, The Ritual is a fairly formulaic piece, and it’s therefore no surprise when Dom (Sam Troughton) – the slightly portly moaning one – having twisted his knee during the hike, forces the group to re-think their plans and take a shortcut through rather ominous looking dense woodland.

Now that’s just asking for trouble.

And so it proves to be.

Stumbling upon a freshly gutted moose carcass suspended high up in a tree, and hopelessly lost with no chance of reaching their target destination, the pioneering foursome take refuge from a particularly heavy rainy deluge, in an apparently abandoned wooden hut. Discovering a part moose, part human straw effigy erected in the hut’s loft space does nothing to put anyone’s mind at ease. Regardless, in this instance, in is better than out, and the lads hunker down for the night around the security of a lit stove, vowing to push on out first thing in the morning.

That’s the plan at least, but the morning is going offer all manner of unwelcome surprises…

With obvious influence taken from some of the better horror films of the not so distant past – think Blair Witch, Wrong Turn, The Witch, and The Whicker Man – The Ritual does at least approach things from a cinematically successful angle, and going with the concept of it’s not what you see, it’s what you don’t see, sustains a fairly decent level of suspense for the most part.

However, once the gang finally realise exactly what they’re up against, this tale of hunter and hunted fast descends into an all too familiar state of predictability, and sadly succumbs to the temptation for ‘the big reveal’, diffusing most of the tension that’s been carefully nurtured to this point.

Whilst Hutch (Robert James-Collier), and Phil (Arsher Ali), are portrayed well enough, they are in many ways fairly dispensable characters, and it’s Sam Troughton and in particular, Rafe Spall, that really steal the show, dragging this OK-ish piece through to its conclusion thanks to their all-round Englishness, a generous smattering of dry humour, and a petty disrespect for one another.

At times witty and irreverent, and always leaning heavily on the use of metaphors, it’s hard to dislike this David Bruckner horror, and it’s only fair to say that through excellent casting and some occasionally disturbing set pieces, he’s created a film that’s certainly very watchable; it might even get under your skin a bit, but more likely, will leave its audience just a little underwhelmed.

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IT COMES AT NIGHT

“Unafraid to be ambiguous, and as open-ended as it is disturbing, It Comes at Night is a highly impressive piece…”

Wayward Wolf.

 

Each member of a family, wearing a gas mask and protective gloves, carry their grandfather a short way into the woods.

Multiple sores are strewn across his elderly face and body. This, together with a grey complexion and laboured breathing, is a sure indication that he is a very sick man and not long for this world.

One reluctant shot to his head, and the lowering of his body into a ready-prepared hole in the ground, is followed by a hurried cremation of sorts.

This is very much the way of things. An act of both mercy and self-preservation, for a contagious plague-like sickness has stricken mankind. Or so it would seem.

But we are observing only a rather claustrophobic microcosm of humanity here, with no real wider frame of reference or comparison. Who knows what’s already happened,  what’s really going on, and more importantly, what’s still to come?

This is the quandary facing Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a tight-knit family unit ensconced in their now boarded-up wooden family house, deep within a forest – doing their best to ride this whole thing out.

With Paul enforcing a set of strict rules with regard to what can and can’t be done given the extraordinary circumstances in hand, the three of them, along with their pet dog, Stanley, do their best to live some kind of structured life, rich in routine and consistency.

All of this, however, is put to the test one night when an armed intruder attempts to enter their secured home. Is this, as the intruder insists, the desperate action of a man innocently scavenging for supplies for his beleaguered family, from what would appear to be an abandoned building? Or, the uninvited arrival of something far more calculated and altogether more sinister?

More importantly, should Paul and his family take pity on this uninvited guest and offer him and his young family sanctum in their time of need?

A huge dilemma when so much is at a stake.

Refreshingly minimal in its approach, It Comes at Night is the work of director Trey Edward Shults, based upon his own screenplay. It’s very much a psychological horror / thriller bringing to mind 2015’s The Witch as well as The Blair Witch franchise, both stylistically speaking, and through its unnerving ability to generate a true sense of confused fear and foreboding.

Shults successfully manages to blur the line here between reality and imagination, raising significant confusion and doubt as to the true nature of whatever malevolent force is at work, and indeed whether this is all in fact nothing but a heightened sense of paranoia within the minds of Paul and his family, facing, as they do, an unexplainable, encroaching external menace from which they increasingly attempt to isolate and protect themselves.

Unafraid to be ambiguous, and as open-ended as it is disturbing, It Comes at Night is a highly impressive piece that provokes serious questions of trust and resolve, and one that will undoubtedly feed your fears of the unknown.