Five doctors go on vacation deep in the Canadian wilderness. After all but one pair of the party's shoes disappear, the remaining shoed camper decides to hike out and go look for help. Soon after he leaves, however, his four companions realizes that something is very wrong when someone leaves a decapitated deer head just outside their camp. Even though they still don't have their shoes, they decide to follow their friend's trail out of the woods, but their path is blocked by someone who doesn't want to see them leave the forest alive. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Towards the end of the film, when Harry's character is dragging the stretcher over rocky terrain, you can clearly see he is wearing boots. They were supposed to have had their boots stolen and had to wrap their feet in plastic tarp. See more »
I saw RITUALS on the big screen when I was a teenager and when the end credits rolled, I looked to my friend and said "NOW that was a great movie!" I was totally riveted from beginning to end. While watching it, my attention never veered away from the big screen. I didn't look at my watch or the exit sign. My thoughts didn't drift away in boredom like so many movies back then or even today. RITUALS was compelling viewing from the very first frame to the very last frame. I enjoyed RITUALS so much that it burgeoned a quasi-obsession in me: backwoods slashers. Ever since seeing RITUALS, I've tried to see every backwoods slasher ever made. And none of them come even close to recreating the realism and believability of RITUALS. JUST BEFORE DAWN, THE FINAL TERROR or THE BURNING, etc, are kids stuff compared to RITUALS.
It's amazing that such a great film is totally overlooked by almost everyone. RITUALS basically started the whole maniac-in-the-woods genre and yet few people have seen it. You think Friday THE 13TH started the whole woodsy slasher trend? Well, RITUALS was made 3 years before Friday THE 13TH. And even though the Paramount flick is a classic in its own right, it doesn't even compare to the Canadian shocker. A lot of critics, including Roger Ebert, dismissed RITUALS as a poor man's DELIVERANCE, and though both movies sorta resemble each other, both films couldn't be more different. In DELIVERANCE, we see the villains. In RITUALS, we have no idea who's stalking the men. DELIVERANCE is a survivalist story more about ordinary guys killing hicks in self-defense and the moral implications about killing in a modern world. RITUALS is a survivalist movie about ordinary guys being hounded and killed one by one by an unseen killer. It's more of a horror movie than DELIVERANCE, which is very slick and less believable than the Canadian movie. After watching RITUALS, you really feel you've been through what the actors had to go through in order to make the movie. RITUALS is dirtier, grimier, bloodier and much darker than DELIVERANCE. So, comparing both film is, in my opinion, completely pointless.
If there was an underrated movie, it sure is this one. But why is RITUALS so overlooked? It's probably because it's a Canadian movie. It's also because there's no sex or female nudity from bimbos we usually see in these kind of slashers, which makes it less marketable. RITUALS has an all-male cast and every actor is of a certain age. It's probably too serious for most. It's also been unfairly dismissed by critics who don't care about horror movies. There are countless number of reasons why this movie is unknown and it's a shame because it's a real buried treasure (for those who like these kind of movies, obviously). RITUALS does have a fervent cult following though!
The whole production is excellent. The direction, acting, dialogue, cinematography are top notch. The desolate scenery is at times stunning. And everything has a ring of truth about it. It's filled with tension and dread. It's scary and exhausting. The things that are done to the men are never exaggerated and yet elicit a lot of dread (the bear traps in the river, the medal on Martin, the head on the stick, etc). The conclusion of the film is totally riveting. The whole part at the cabin, with Mitzi hung up in the air. Or the moment Hal Holbrook's character finally meets the killer, when you can help but feel a varied mix of emotions at the sight of the killer (keeping the killer's appearance a mystery up to the very end works, dramatically speaking, perfectly in this instance). Or the scene when the killer gets his hand blown off is shocking because the gore effects are so realistic. Everything about the ending is pure horror, but never over-the-top horror like so many stupid horror films. And, finally, the music is also excellent. For example, when we see the point-of-view of the killer, the music accompanying these shots is subtle and enhances the whole idea behind the usually unimaginative use of POV shots. And I like the very last scene of the movie, the one on the road. All in all, RITUALS is successful on all fronts. The only part that some might find irritating are the behavior of some of the characters (a lot of yelling, grown men crying) but that didn't bother me because it never felt fake. As long as it rings true, I'm fine with any kind of behavior portrayed on screen. RITUALS also has an openly gay character who's just one of the guys. His portrayal, warts and all, is a positive one which was rare in horror movies back then or even today.
I consider RITUALS a masterpiece of horror. Not only is this Canadian flick the best woodsy slasher ever made, it's also one of the best horror films ever made. I give it a big 10!!!!
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