It’s undeniable that once The Ritual ends you’ll feel short-changed. The film can be divided into three acts. It’s the first act where mates Luke, Phil, Hutch, Dom, and Robert are getting piss drunk and sorting out where they’ll mancation together that the film excels. When the friends wander into a liquor store they stumble upon a robbery that goes every way but decent. In order to recover, the surviving lot decide to go hiking on the King’s Trail. It’s The Descent with males instead of females, one of the characters even mentions that they’re hiking the equivalent of the Appalachians (where The Descent took place), yet this allusion warns viewers that something nasty is around the corner. And, despite the unabashed Descent copying, everything kicks off incredibly well. The first act finishes with the characters taking a short cut and stumbling upon an old house. They take refuge, suffer horrific nightmares, and have no idea what’s going on once they discover a gutted bear hanging from a tree and a bizarre statue of a pagan deity. The Ritual is well acted, mysterious, and tense enough to force you not to blink. At least through act one.
The second act removes all the suspense, tension, and wastes the reveal of the mystery to what’s happening far too early. While the remaining characters are hiking towards civilization, the audience gets to see a brief glimpse of a walking tree moaning and following them. It’s silly. In fact, it’s so silly that you’ll find yourself impatiently waiting until the tree thing finishes killing them off one by one in classic Jason Voorhees style. Whereas Jason had a machete, this tree thing has antler hands to slice and poke with.
The third act introduces a cult that over explains everything about the tree monster to the lone survivor. Once it all ends as you expected, you’ll continue to puzzle over how such a strong first act went completely downhill and off the rails. Just remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Somewhere out there The Descent and Jason are blushing. But it’d be best for everyone to seek out those superior films and leave The Ritual in the recycle bin.
Jason Voorhees: uses a machete, kills everyone in Camp Crystal Lake, and leaves the virgin as the final survivor.
The Descent creatures: uses teeth, kills everyone in their cave, and leaves the most mentally damaged as the final survivor.
The Ritual tree thing: uses antlers, kills everyone in the King’s Trail forest, and leaves the atheist as the final survivor.