Five old uni mates meet in a pub to discuss their plans for an upcoming holiday together. The adventurous Rob wants to go hiking in Sweden, but the others aren't too keen. Then tragedy strikes, and Rob is killed. Six months later, the four remaining friends take a hiking trail called the Kungsleden, or King's Trail, in Sweden in his memory. When one of the group is injured, they realise it will be a long walk back to civilisation for help. Having apparently never read a fairy tale, they opt to take a shortcut through the forest instead. Once they are amidst the trees they, of course, get lost, and discover to their horror that they are not alone in the forest.
The Ritual (2017) was directed by American director David Bruckner, co-director and co-writer of The Signal. While most of the action takes place in Sweden, the dialogue is almost entirely in English. It's a creepy horror film with a talented cast and a bizarre and terrifying monster. The creature, which I don't want to say too much about, is not revealed until quite late in the film, which helps a lot with building up the tension.
I tend to find it hard to get into films with no, or very few, female characters, which is definitely the case here (there are about three women in The Ritual, and I don't think any of them get names), and it suffered a little by comparison with another movie I watched recently, Annihilation (which has an almost all-female cast and an even creepier beastie). However, there were other aspects of this movie to hold my interest. Apart from the monster, and the mystery surrounding it, there was the beauty and terror of the forest itself and the hints of Norse mythology.
Mysterious hanging runes in the abandoned cabin in the woods. This is bound to end well.
There is a fair bit of gore, as you might expect for the genre, and a high body count. The usual horror tropes are there in abundance, but that's not necessarily a bad thing if it's what you're in the mood for.
A bit of trivia for fellow geeks; Sam Troughton, who plays Dom, whose injury necessitates the detour into the forest, is the grandson of Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor in Doctor Who. Arsher Ali, who plays Phil (another of the four friends), appeared in two episodes of Doctor Who with the twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Rafe Spall, who plays Luke, has no connection with Doctor Who that I know of, but appeared in all three films in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
The Ritual is a watchable horror film. It's not the scariest movie ever, and doesn't pass the Bechdel test, but it will probably appeal to fans of Norse mythology and those who like a really creepy monster.