The Ritual (2017)

Don’t enter the forest, guys…

Based on Adam Nevill’s 2011 novel, this movie tells the story of a group of male friends, including guilt-ridden Luke (played by Rafe Spall), hiking across the Swedish countryside as a tribute to their dead friend Rob.

When one of the group sprains his knee the fateful decision is made to take a shortcut through a forest, where they stumble upon runes carved in trees, a gutted deer and finally a cabin they sleep in to avoid the rain. From now on things get ever-creepier, after a statue of a headless human body made from twigs, with antlers for hands, is discovered in one of the cabin’s rooms…

THe friends together
Remembering Rob
The statue
The weird headless twig statue

This is a very satisfying horror tale with a well-sustained atmosphere, shot impressively on location in a seemingly endless forest. Rafe Spall’s character has some well-handled flashbacks/nightmares of the night Rob was murdered in a bungled store robbery and the inference is that these ongoing nightmares aren’t solely due to Luke’s guilt over not helping Rob, but also because something has got into his head and is messing with his emotions. Luke isn’t alone in this, as his buddies are also suffering from bad dreams, with one of them (Arsher Ali) seemingly praying to the twig statue whilst asleep.

The creature grabs Luke
Just what the hell is this?

As the friends trudge onwards through the forest they soon realise they are being stalked by a creature, something massive enough to push aside trees as it passes through them. This is where THE RITUAL really stands out, creating a very intriguing beast referred to as a Jötunn, a god-creature from Norse legend: a bastard-offspring of Loki.

The Jötunn
The Jötunn comes calling…

We find this out after the two surviving friends enter a forest village inhabited by people who pray and sacrifice to this creature in return for a kind of immortality. This everlasting life is shown to be quite a ghastly fate when Luke goes into an attic and finds a large group of withered ‘corpses’ that are actually still alive, imbued with a horrible version of eternal life through their worship of the Jötunn.

The Jötunn in all its glory
Such an amazing critter!

As the finale kicks-in we are shown the Jötunn in all its glory: a huge elk-monster with a very weird head that sports human arms, small glowing eyes and antlers. This beast is very novel-looking and it helps make a good horror movie even more special.

Behind the scenes…
Here’s the maquette of the beast, based on concept designs by Keith Thompson. The model stands 2 feet tall and was used as photogrammetry reference for the VFX department for details and colour.

The maquette
The maquette for the creature

Here are behind the scenes shots of dummies used for the ‘congregation’ (the living dead ‘corpses’ seen in the attic). Two of these dummies had components for puppeteering. There were also eight background makeups on actors used to complete the congregation group. Head sculptures were by Clint Ziccoli, based on designs by Keith Thompson, and animatronics & fabrication by Mark Villalobos.

corpse dummies
corpse dummy
Dummies used for the ‘congregation’
Ritual gif

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