HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE RITUAL (2017)

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THE RITUAL (2017)

Based on a book by Adam Nevill, this chiller finds four friends traveling deep into the Swedish wilderness on a hiking excursion while mourning the death of a fifth member of their group. Deep in the woods they find a supernatural entity presides there, one worshiped as a deity by the locals and who feeds on the mental…and physical…pain of it’s sacrifices…and anyone wondering into it’s territory qualifies as a sacrifice.

Film, directed by David Bruckner (the Amateur Night segment of V/H/S) from Joe Barton’s script, which is based on Nevill’s novel, evokes mixed feelings. On one hand it is basically The Blair Witch Project meets The Wicker Man (original version, of course) and thus is very familiar. On the other hand, Bruckner does conjure up some spooky sequences and the film has a very unsettling visual style, especially in the last act when it’s wendigo-like deity makes it’s appearance. There are scenes directly lifted from The Blair Witch Project with symbols found carved on trees, strange formations made from sticks and antlers and characters screaming in the distance as something unseen drags them away. There is a spooky cabin in the woods and even a witch. We do, however, also get some gory stuff with animals and people found gutted and hanging from trees and some very unsettling dream sequences, especially from lead Luke (Rafe Spall) who feels guilty over his friend’s death. It turns full blown into The Wicker Man in it’s last act, when the surviving hikers are taken to a village lost in time, where they are to be sacrificed to whatever lurks among the trees. Once the thing shows up, Bruckner gets some good effect from the spirit creature’s look and ferocity and the fight to escape it by the remaining characters. The movie is atmospheric and the small cast perform their clichéd roles well. There is a spooky score by Ben Lovett and some really effective cinematography from Andrew Shulkind to add to it’s overall effectiveness.

This film was a bit hard to rate as it is very effective in terms of it’s atmosphere, it’s spooky visuals and some effectively creepy moments from director Bruckner, but constantly reminds us of other movies. It does use the familiar elements to do it’s own thing, but also borrow heavily from some widely renown films. It’s definitely worth a look, but go in knowing you’ve seen a lot of it before. Also stars Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier and Sam Troughton as Luke’s three friends. Film is currently streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 deer.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SOUTHBOUND (2015)

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SOUTHBOUND (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Spooky flick is a strange anthology that starts out with two men fleeing mysterious creatures down a stretch of remote desert highway. Their tale leads into the next and so on, each tale leading directly into the one that follows, till the last story returns us to where we started, as if these stories are occurring in an infinite loop with each person reliving the events over and over. We get a sense that each person has a dark secret or sin to hide and the film never quite spills all the beans, remaining unsettlingly ambiguous, save for some interesting comments from a radio DJ (Larry Fessenden) everyone appears to be listening to on this desolate stretch of road.

The Way In and The Way Out are the opening and closing segments that keep the tales connected in it’s loop are directed by Radio Silence (Devil’s Due) and written by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin. They are quite spooky and effective tales that opens mysteriously and only let’s us know what it’s blood-covered characters (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Chad Villella) have been up to when we reach the anthology’s end. Creepy and very effective and starts the flick off on a disturbing note and ends it chillingly.

Siren tells the story of an all-girl band (Nathalie Love, Fabianne Therese and Hannah Marks) who break down on the same road and meet an interesting fate. There is some vague talk about the death of a fourth band member and where the blame might lie and a seemingly nice couple (co-writer Burke and Davey Johnson), that come to their aid, who are not what they appear. Another spooky and off-putting segment written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin, who co-wrote with Susan Burke.

Third segment is called The Accident and has the surviving band member from Siren getting hit on that same highway by a man named Lucas (Mather Zickel), who tries to do the right thing and get her help. His efforts become a living nightmare as he happens upon a hospital that is more a house of horrors with empty halls and blood spattered walls. Another very effective segment written and directed by David Bruckner.

Jailbreak is the weakest segment, which features a brother (David Yow) trying to rescue his sister (Tipper Newton) from a strange town the mysterious highway runs through and were Lucas found the hospital in the last segment. This sequence simply doesn’t quite have the same impact as the others and while it delivers the gore and blood, as they all do, it doesn’t resonate as well. It is written and directed by Patrick Horvath, who co-wrote with Dallas Hallam.

We then come to the previously mentioned The Way Out, where we segue back to the characters from the opening while telling the story of a young girl (Hassie Harrison) who is spending time with her parents (Gerald Downey and Kate Beahan) for the weekend before going off to school. The house they are renting comes under attack from some masked individuals, but the story doesn’t go where you expect and successfully brings us back to the films opening.

All the segments are well performed by it’s cast of relative unknowns (indie icon Larry Fessenden’s vocal performance aside) and not only provides some definite chills and thrills, but quite a lot of creepy imagery and blood-spattering gore.

Overall, I liked this flick. It’s disturbing and unsettling and doesn’t spoon-feed you all the answers…though pay attention and there are subtle clues to what might be going on and fun ways the stories connect. It’s no secret we are possibly watching a form of Hell were those inside are doomed to repeat their sins or suffer the consequences over and over, though there is indication one might free themselves from this unearthly loop by making the right choice. Either way, it’s a creepy, blood-soaked ride down an unnamed highway of horrors.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 highway signs on a road to nowhere.

southbound rating

 

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