DIRECTOR: Peter Carter
WRITER: Ian Sutherland
When five doctors go on vacation into the Canadian Wilderness. Strange things start to happen. Severed animal heads start appearing, their items of clothing are stolen, traps have been set, and the group now decide to head for help. As the group begin coming under attack, tensions start to set in between the friends and their trust is completely broken. So the group must band together but little do they realise that they have a lot more to fear by the disfigured and crazed killer who is hunting them down one by one.
When I decided to take part in Rituals, I was going into this movie completely blind. I had never heard of this film before. I added it to my slasher retrospective when it was featured on a little blog dedicated to slasher cinema who had it on their list of films. It appears that while researching this film, it may still be relatively unknown. Listening to a review of the film, they mention that at the time of their review, there was not even a Wikipedia page created for this film.
Coming back to the research side of the film. While reading about the movie, it was filmed back in 1976 and didn't see an actual release stateside until two years after it wrapped up production. I think a big reason behind this film not seeing a release for two years is that it came out only a few years after another film that contained very similar themes and was a critical and big box office success. That movie is the Oscar-nominated movie Deliverance.
After watching Rituals, I can see why people compare this movie to Deliverance. The movie is set in the backwoods/woodlands. A group of friends are set upon by a killer or killer(s). But that's where I believe the comparisons end for me. I think that this one plays more like a slasher where Deliverance feels more like the survival horror movie. Rituals features an unseen presence who is slowly toying with our group of friends and begins picking them off one by one like a normal slasher movie killer.
Rituals is a slow burn horror film. Anyone going in and expecting a film that delivers kill after kill with huge amounts of suspense may be left pretty disappointed. I didn't find Rituals all that intense but what I did enjoy about this film was the build up. The film slowly starts to unravel, and this is where creepy things begin to happen to this group of mates. It starts out pretty innocently, and as the movie goes on, the threats become more and more ferocious. This is where the movie delivers it's most horrific and creepy moments.
Another element that I really enjoyed about this movie was that they don't reveal the identity of the killer until the final few minutes. So we are left in the dark as to who is committing these vicious acts on the group of doctors. We only get a couple of little glimpses as to who the possible killer is, and when it's finally revealed, it's a pretty big shock. Not for the fact that the killer is someone we know but the way the killer looks. When his reason for killing these men is revealed, I really enjoyed how this film came to an end.
Filmed in Canada, the cinematography is just gorgeous. Being that the entire movie is filmed in the wilderness, we get a lot of beautiful scenery and landscape shots. It also must be mentioned that it looks like all of the actors were actually put into the harsh environments and asked to act through some pretty daring stuff. There is a scene in a river rapid that was intense and well made. Even though the movie looks low budget, the film still looked like it gets the most out of its locations.
When it comes to all the gore and death scenes, Rituals is rather restrained when it comes to its violence and bloodshed. The goriest scene features what was apparently a real decapitated deer's head. The rest of the moments that happen in Rituals are all rather bloodless. A head being stuck on a pike and a bear trap is sadly not as gory as I'd hoped for. If you want disturbing, you would probably find the 'squeal piggy' scene from Deliverance more uncomfortable than anything shown in Rituals.
Lastly, the acting in Rituals is solid for me. The only actor I actually know from this cast is Hal Holbrook. The man has plenty of notable roles under his belt, but here he delivers a performance that ranges from anger to uncertainty and by the end of the film, sheer horror. I think he holds the film upon his shoulders, but that's not to say that the rest of the cast aren't all great in their respective roles. A well-acted film from all involved.
DEATH TOLL: 5
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A decapitated deer's head is shown.
- A man dies after drowning in a river.
- A severed head is found on a pike.
- Someone is strangled to death to end their suffering.
- A man is tied to a chair with metal rods in his legs.
- A man steps in bear traps.
- Someone is slashed across the leg with a knife.
- A disfigured man is shot dead.
- A man is stabbed in the chest.
- Someone is set on fire and burns to death.
- A man's foot has to be set back into place.
Going into Rituals and not knowing a single thing about the movie, I came out of this one pleasantly surprised. This film will no doubt draw comparisons to Deliverance but for me, both films are very different, and both are good in their own ways. So Rituals features great performances, some wonderful cinematography and an enjoyable build up to an incredibly dark and brutal little ending. Where it goes wrong for me is that the movie has pacing problems early on. Until things start getting more deadly, the film does feel a little slow in the early scenes.