The Ritual (2017 film)

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The Ritual
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Bruckner
Screenplay byJoe Barton
Based onThe Ritual
by Adam Nevill
Produced by
CinematographyAndrew Shulkind
Edited byMark Towns
Music byBen Lovett
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 8 September 2017 (2017-09-08) (TIFF)
  • 13 October 2017 (2017-10-13) (United Kingdom)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$1.3–1.6 million[1][2]

The Ritual is a 2017 British supernatural folk horror film directed by David Bruckner and written by Joe Barton. Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Adam Nevill, the film stars Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, and Sam Troughton as four friends on a hiking trip through a Swedish old-growth forest, where they encounter an ancient evil presence.

Following its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on 8 September, The Ritual was released by eOne in the United Kingdom on 13 October.


In a pub, five friends—Phil, Dom, Hutch, Luke, and Rob—discuss plans for a holiday. Rob suggests hiking in Sweden but gets rebuffed. Afterward, Luke and Rob leave to purchase alcohol but get involved in a robbery which soon turns violent. While Luke hides, the robbers harass and eventually kill Rob.

Six months later, the remaining four start a hiking trip along the Kungsleden in northern Sweden in memory of Rob. After Dom injures his knee, Hutch suggests cutting through the forest rather than following the marked trail. Upon entering the forest, the group comes across a gutted and hanged elk, and mysterious symbols carved in the trees.

At night, a torrential rainstorm forces them to take shelter in an abandoned cabin. They find necklaces bearing similar symbols and an effigy of a decapitated human torso made of twigs, with antlers for hands. During the night, Luke has a nightmare about the robbery. The next morning, they awake to find Luke's chest bleeding from puncture wounds and a naked Phil praying to the effigy. Disturbed, the group tries to leave the woods. While discerning their location, Luke spots a large figure amongst the trees, but Dom doubts him. In their ensuing argument, Dom calls Luke a coward for letting Rob die.

Later that night, the group is awakened by Phil's screams. Hutch is missing and his tent has partially collapsed. The remaining three search for him, but by dawn, they realize they are lost. Eventually, they find a gutted Hutch impaled on tree branches and give him an impromptu burial. Around sunset, Phil is attacked and dragged away by an unseen creature; Luke and Dom flee. They find a torch-lined path leading to a small settlement. Upon rushing into a cottage, they are knocked unconscious.

Luke and Dom awake to find themselves restrained in a basement. An elderly woman inspects Luke's chest wounds, revealing she bears a similar marking. Two men drag Dom upstairs and later return him, beaten and bruised, to the basement. Dom says he will be sacrificed to the creature and urges Luke to flee. Later, while Dom is tied up outside by the townsfolk, Luke begins freeing himself from the restraints. Amidst the ritual, Dom hallucinates his wife emerging from the forest, only to realize it is the creature as it picks him up and impales him on a nearby tree.

A young woman explains to Luke that the creature is a jötunn named "Moder." It is an ancient god-like entity and an offspring of Loki that grants the cult immortality in exchange for sacrifices. Luke is to either worship Moder or be sacrificed. After she leaves, Luke frees himself and ventures upstairs. Armed with a torch, Luke finds a congregation of mummified worshipers that begin to move and sets them alight, burning the cabin, and attracting Moder. Luke finds a hunting rifle and heads downstairs, killing a cult member and taking an axe. The enraged jötunn kills the young woman while Luke shoots at it and escapes.

Moder pursues Luke, crippling his mind with hallucinations of Rob's death before catching and forcing him to his knees. Luke refuses to submit, strikes it with the axe, then flees. Following hallucinatory signposts and rays of sunlight, he emerges in an open field. Unable to leave the forest, Moder angrily roars. Luke shouts back in triumph and heads towards a paved road.



The film was shot on location in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania.[3]

The film's score was composed by David Bruckner's long-time friend and frequent collaborator, Ben Lovett. Lovett also scored Bruckner's 2007 film The Signal and 2020's The Night House.[4]


The Ritual premiered in September 2017 at the Toronto International Film Festival, where its international distribution rights were sold to Netflix for $4.75 million.[5] The film was theatrically released in the United Kingdom by eOne Films on 13 October 2017 and grossed over $1 million during its run.[1] It was later released to Netflix on 9 February 2018.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 74% based on 96 reviews, and an average rating of 6.1/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Director David Bruckner makes evocative use of the Scandinavian setting and a dedicated cast to deliver a handsome — if familiar — horror story."[7] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[8] Katie Walsh of the Los Angeles Times praised the film and said that it was "Efficient and highly effective in its style, relying on sound, creepy production design, and the men's own fear and misjudgments to create the sense of pervasive doom."[9] writer Simon Abrams scored the film a 2/4, saying "The most disappointing kind of bad horror movie: the kind that's too smart to be this dumb."[10] Kyle Kohner of The Playlist gave the film a negative review, saying "David Bruckner had all the ingredients for a horror masterpiece - deceptively scenic wilderness shots, great character camaraderie, dreadful atmosphere/setting- but The Ritual winds up a missed opportunity."[11]


  1. ^ a b "The Ritual (2017) – Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  2. ^ "The Ritual". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  3. ^ "Horror film the Ritual features Southwick actor".
  4. ^ Reeves, Rachel (7 February 2020). "[Exclusive Interview] Composer Ben Lovett On THE NIGHT HOUSE, David Bruckner and His Deep Cut Connection to Alkaline Trio". Nightmare on Film Street. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  5. ^ "Toronto: Horror Film 'The Ritual' Sells to Netflix for $4.75 Million (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  6. ^ "THE RITUAL Heading to Netflix This February". Nightmare on Film Street. 13 January 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  7. ^ "The Ritual (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 29 October 2022.
  8. ^ "The Ritual Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  9. ^ Walsh, Katie (8 February 2018). "Primal and visceral horror haunts 'The Ritual'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  10. ^ Abrams, Simon. "The Ritual Movie Review & Film Summary (2018) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  11. ^ "'The Ritual' Conjures Up Familiar, Forgettable Horror [Review]". The Playlist. 13 February 2018. Retrieved 12 March 2018.

External links[edit]