The Ritual is a 2017 British supernatural horror film directed by David Bruckner, written by Joe Barton, and starring Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, and Sam Troughton. The film is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Adam Nevill.
Five university friends—Phil, Dom, Hutch, Luke, and Rob—meet at a pub and discuss plans for a group trip. Rob suggests hiking in Sweden, but gets rebuffed. Afterward, Luke and Rob enter a shop for drinks, but interrupt a robbery in progress. Luke hides while Rob becomes frozen with fear as the thieves antagonize him for his valuables. Luke nearly intervenes, but decides against it before the thieves kill Rob for disobeying them. Six months later, the remaining four embark on a hiking trip along the Kungsleden in northern Sweden in Rob’s memory. Almost immediately, Dom injures his knee. Hutch suggests they cut through the forest rather than use the longer marked trail in the hopes of sparing Dom any further suffering.
Upon entering the forest however, the group encounters strange phenomena, including a gutted elk hanging from several branches and strange symbols carved in the trees. As night falls, a torrential rainstorm forces them to find shelter. They come upon an abandoned cabin, so they break in and stay for the night. Inside, they find necklaces bearing similar symbols and an effigy of a decapitated human torso with antlers for hands. The next morning, the group finds Luke’s chest covered in strange puncture wounds and Phil praying to the effigy. Freaked out, the group tries to find a way out. While discerning their location, Luke spots a large figure, but Dom doubts him. In their ensuing argument, Dom brings up the past, calling Luke a coward for letting Rob die to save himself.
Later that night, Luke is suddenly awakened by Hutch’s screams. While investigating, he finds Hutch’s tent empty and partially collapsed. The remaining three men rush deeper into the woods to search for him, but by dawn, they realize that they are lost and unable to locate their campsite. While continuing their search without their supplies, they find Hutch eviscerated and impaled on tree branches. After giving him an impromptu burial, Phil is suddenly dragged away by an unseen creature. Despite realizing the creature’s been stalking them the entire time, Luke and Dom make a run for it, but the creature gives chase. They find a path lined with torches leading to a small settlement and rush into a cottage to hide. While barricading themselves inside, they’re knocked unconscious.
When they awake, they find themselves restrained in a cellar. An elderly woman enters and inspects Luke’s puncture marks, revealing she bears a similar pattern. On her way out, she orders two men to take Dom upstairs. A younger woman enters and explains that preparations are being made for a sacrifice. Sometime later, a beaten Dom is returned to the basement. He tells Luke that he is to be sacrificed to the creature, urging him to find a way out and destroy the village before he’s taken outside. Amidst the ritual, Dom has a vision of his wife emerging from the forest, not realizing it’s the creature until it impales him on a nearby tree. Desperate to escape, Luke partially frees himself, but gets interrupted by the young woman. When he asks about the creature, she explains that it is a Jötunn, a bastard son of Loki and a god-like figure from Scandinavian mythology that the cult provides sacrifices to in return for immortality. Luke is to either submit to it or be killed.
After she leaves, Luke fully frees himself and ventures upstairs. Armed with a torch, he finds a twisted congregation of mummified worshipers. He sets them alight, burning the cabin and attracting the Jötunn. Luke finds a hunting rifle and heads downstairs, running into and killing a follower before taking his axe along the way. The enraged Jötunn kills the young woman while Luke shoots at it and escapes. It pursues him, crippling his mind with hallucinations before catching him and forcing him to his knees, offering him a chance to submit. Luke strikes it with the axe, briefly incapacitating it. Following rays of sunlight, he emerges in an open field. Unable to leave the forest, the Jötunn roars in anger while Luke screams back in triumph before heading towards a paved road.
An interesting and decently made horror movie that will surely have something for a lot of horror fans. It isn’t big on scares to be honest. I’d give this a 7.5 outta 10!