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Review: Brit horror The Ritual cranks up the unnerving tension

PUBLISHED: 09:28 13 October 2017 | UPDATED: 09:33 13 October 2017

Rob James-Collier as Hutch, Rafe Spall as Luke, Arsher Ali as Phil and Sam Troughton as Dom in The Ritual. Photo: Entertainment One

Rob James-Collier as Hutch, Rafe Spall as Luke, Arsher Ali as Phil and Sam Troughton as Dom in The Ritual. Photo: Entertainment One

Entertainment One/Vlad Cioplea

The Hangover downs shots with Deliverance and The Blair Witch Project, in this British horror thriller resists the temptation for cheap, jump-out-of-your-seat scares to focus on a sustained build-up of tension.

Sam Troughton as Dom, Rafe Spall as Luke, Arsher Ali as Phil and Rob James-Collier as Hutch in The Ritual. Photo: Entertainment One/Vlad CiopleaSam Troughton as Dom, Rafe Spall as Luke, Arsher Ali as Phil and Rob James-Collier as Hutch in The Ritual. Photo: Entertainment One/Vlad Cioplea

Ritual (15)

***

This British horror movie didn’t make me jump once – rather it busied itself keeping me in a state of unnerving tension.

The film glides audiences across the full horror spectrum, from casual random inner city brutality to remote supernatural threat. It works so well because it gets invest completely in its four protagonist, and fully rewards your faith.

Four not-quite-ready-to-be-called-middle-aged men (Rafe Spall, Robert James-Collier, Arsher Ali and Sam Troughton) choose to ignore the golden rule of city life: never go out into the countryside.

Instead they find themselves on a hiking tour of Norway in memory of the fifth member of the group, Robert, who had been killed on a night out sixth months earlier.

Rafe Spall as Luke and Sam Troughton as Dom in The Ritual. Photo: Entertainment One/Vlad CiopleaRafe Spall as Luke and Sam Troughton as Dom in The Ritual. Photo: Entertainment One/Vlad Cioplea

Luke (Spall) is wrestling with his guilt about failing to intervene when Robert was murdered. When one of them treads awkwardly and sprains his ankle, they decide to take a short cut through the woods. What follows is the Blair Witch Project with grown ups and proper cameramen.

I wouldn’t call it terrifying but it is consistently gripping and is so because of the quality of the cast and the closeness with which you identify with them.

The best part of the film is following them as they gradually come to realise and accept that there is something going on beyond their understanding. Even as the events on screen move into the realms of the fantastical, they still make it seem real.

If you want me to nitpick, there are a couple of time when it seems to go from day to night really quickly. And though it is played up quite strongly, Luke’s guilt over Robert’s death doesn’t really have any thematic pay off.

But overall, I’d say this was the best British horror movie since The Descent, though I’d say with the nagging feeling that I’ve overlooked one.

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