The Ritual (2017 film)

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The Ritual
The Ritual UK poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Bruckner
Produced byJonathan Cavendish
Richard Holmes
Andy Serkis
Screenplay byJoe Barton
Based onThe Ritual
by Adam Nevill
StarringRafe Spall
Arsher Ali
Robert James-Collier
Sam Troughton
Music byBen Lovett
CinematographyAndrew Shulkind
Edited byMark Towns
Distributed byeOne Films (UK)
Netflix (International)
Release date
  • 8 September 2017 (2017-09-08) (TIFF)
  • 13 October 2017 (2017-10-13) (UK)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$1.3–1.6 million[1][2]

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.[3] The film is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Adam Nevill.


Five old friends from university—Phil, Dom, Hutch, Luke, and Rob—meet over drinks at a pub, and discuss plans for a group trip to catch up with one another. Rob suggests hiking in Sweden but is quickly shot down by the others. Afterward, Luke and Rob enter a shop to purchase a bottle of vodka and interrupt a robbery in progress. Two armed robbers emerge from the back room, and Luke hides behind a shelf at the end of the aisle, leaving Rob frozen in fear. The thieves antagonise Rob, demanding his wallet, watch, and wedding ring. Rob parts with the first two but refuses to give them his ring. Luke, still hidden, flips the bottle in his hand and prepares to intervene. However, he is too slow to act, and Rob is bludgeoned to death.

Six months after his death, to honour Rob's wish, the four embark on a hiking trip along the Kungsleden, or King's Trail, in northern Sweden. When Dom loses his footing and injures his knee, impairing his ability to walk, Hutch consults the map and decides that an alternative route through a forest off of the trail will take them half the time. Upon entering the forest, the group encounters strange phenomena, including a gutted elk hanging from the tree branches and strange symbols carved on the trees.

As night falls, a torrential rainstorm soaks the men. While looking for shelter, they come upon an abandoned cabin and decide to break in and stay overnight. Inside the cabin, they find necklaces hanging from the walls bearing symbols similar to those carved in the trees. While exploring the attic of the cabin, Phil discovers a wooden statuette of a decapitated human torso with antlers for hands.

During the night, the four are plagued by nightmares. Upon waking the next morning, Luke finds that he has sustained a set of strange puncture wounds on his chest. The group finds Phil in the attic, naked and kneeling in prayer in front of the effigy. The group leaves the cabin to continue their travels deeper into the woods, trying to find a way out.

Climbing a ridge to get an idea of their location, Luke sees a large figure in the trees. Dom doubts his report, and in an ensuing argument, Dom reveals that he blames Luke for Rob's death, and calls Luke cowardly for failing to act during the robbery.

Later that night, screams awaken Luke from another nightmare. Discovering that Hutch's tent is empty, the other three men rush deeper into the woods, lured by Hutch's screams. By dawn, they realise that they have become lost and can't find their campsite. They decide to continue their search without their tents and supplies. The three come upon Hutch eviscerated and impaled on tree branches, much like the gutted deer they had found earlier. After retrieving his compass and knife, the men give Hutch an impromptu burial with tree branches.

Luke leaves Phil and Dom on the lower part of a ridge to climb a hill that provides an overview of the entire forest, and discovers that they are relatively close to the edge of the forest. He also spots smoke rising from distant campfires. He rejoins the other two to find them pointing their torches towards the trees, saying they heard a noise. Suddenly, Phil is dragged away by an unseen creature. Seeking a hiding place, Luke encounters Dom and urges him to run with him. They get to their feet and begin to run, the creature giving chase. They pass Phil's body impaled on the branches of a tree near a path of lit torches that leads to a small village. They seek shelter in the first building they see, and collapse on the cabin floor, only to be knocked unconscious.

When they awaken, they find themselves restrained in a basement. An elderly woman enters and inspects the puncture marks on Luke's chest. She pulls down her dress to reveal a similar pattern on her chest. She turns to leave the basement and utters a command in a foreign language, which prompts two men to grab Dom and take him to the upper floor of the cabin. A younger woman enters the basement and explains in English that preparations are being made for sacrifice. Sometime later, Dom is escorted back to the basement, beaten and bloodied, but still alive. He explains to Luke that he will serve as a human sacrifice to the creature, and instructs him to find a way to escape and destroy the village.

Dom is taken outside of the cabin and brought to a wooden post, where his hands are tied behind his back. As night falls, a roar is heard from the forest. The captors immediately fall to their knees in worship. Dom has a vision of his wife emerging from the trees and holding his face in her hands. This is, in reality, the creature that has been pursuing the men. The creature removes Dom from the post and impales him on the branches of a nearby tree, leaving him to die. Desperate to escape, Luke escapes from one of his restraints by breaking his thumb, but is interrupted by the young woman's sudden entrance before he can remove the second. When Luke asks about the creature, she explains that it is called a Jötunn, a god-like figure from Scandinavian mythology that is a bastard child of Loki, and that they provide it sacrifices in return for immortality. She states that Luke will take part in a ritual where he will submit to the creature and join the cult, or be killed.

After she leaves, Luke breaks free from his restraints and leaves the basement. He ventures to the upper floor of the cabin, hearing prayers and screaming coming from behind a closed door. Armed with a burning torch, he opens the door and finds a twisted congregation of mummified, but still living, humans, evidently the end result of the immortality granted by their worship of the creature. Following Dom's last wish, he sets the worshippers alight. This act attracts the Jötunn, who emerges from the forest to find the cabin burning. In a rage, the creature kills the young woman, seemingly gouging her eyes out after speaking with her angrily. Luke uses this opportunity to escape from the burning cabin after a couple of cultists almost stop him, and the creature bars his way from the front door. Before running into the woods, Luke aims and takes a shot at the creature as it is holding the young woman's body aloft. The creature pursues him, attempting to cripple his mind by causing hallucinations of his recurring nightmare. The creature eventually catches him, and forces him onto his knees multiple times, offering Luke a chance to submit. Luke uses an axe which he had previously taken from one of the worshippers to strike the creature, briefly incapacitating it. He follows the sunlight, emerging from the forest into an open field. Seemingly unable to leave the forest, the creature roars at him, and he screams back in triumph. Luke turns from the monster and heads in the direction of a paved road with a passing car, a sign of civilization.


Release and reception[edit]

The film premiered in September 2017 at the Toronto International Film Festival, where its international distribution rights were sold to Netflix for $4.75 million.[4] The film was theatrically released in the United Kingdom by eOne Films on 13 October 2017 and grossed over $1 million during its run.[1] It was later released to Netflix on 9 February 2018.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 73% based on 86 reviews, and an average rating of 6.1/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Director David Bruckner makes evocative use of the Scandinavian setting and a dedicated cast to deliver a handsome — if familiar — horror story."[6] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[7]

Katie Walsh of the Los Angeles Times praised the film and said that it was "Efficient and highly effective in its style, relying on sound, creepy production design, and the men's own fear and misjudgment to create the sense of pervasive doom."[8] writer Simon Abrams scored the film a 2/4, saying "The most disappointing kind of bad horror movie: the kind that's too smart to be this dumb."[9] Kyle Kohner of The Playlist gave the film a negative review, saying "David Bruckner had all the ingredients for a horror masterpiece - deceptively scenic wilderness shots, great character camaraderie, dreadful atmosphere/setting- but The Ritual winds up a missed opportunity."[10]


  1. ^ a b "The Ritual (2017) – Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  2. ^ "The Ritual". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  3. ^ "'The Ritual' Review: David Bruckner Shows Promise in Familiar Horror Tale | TIFF 2017". Collider. 10 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Toronto: Horror Film 'The Ritual' Sells to Netflix for $4.75 Million (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  5. ^ "THE RITUAL Heading to Netflix This February | Nightmare on Film Street". Nightmare on Film Street. 13 January 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  6. ^ "The Ritual (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  7. ^ "The Ritual Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  8. ^ Walsh, Katie. "Primal and visceral horror haunts 'The Ritual'". Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  9. ^ Abrams, Simon. "The Ritual Movie Review & Film Summary (2018) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  10. ^ "'The Ritual' Conjures Up Familiar, Forgettable Horror [Review]". The Playlist. 13 February 2018. Retrieved 12 March 2018.

External links[edit]