Critical Viewing Journal: The Ritual (2017)

This week, we are concentrating on the use of theme and tone within a film, with particular reference to Phil Parker’s 8 thematic types.

For this week’s particular viewing, I have watched the 2017 horror film The Ritual, which is about a group of friends from university who go hiking in a remote area of Sweden. When one of the group twists his knee, they decide to take a ‘shortcut’ through a forest. Unfortunately, an evil presence lurks in the forest and they begin a fight for survival.

Using Phil Parker’s thematic types, The Ritual very much fits two of these themes. First is a fear of the unknown / unknowable. The creature stalking them is something that, at first, they are unable to see, so remains an unknown, deadly, presence within the forest. When it is finally revealed, it is a creature that is still an absolute unknown, previously unseen by all but a few, and most of those have wound up dead. Which leads to the next theme: a fear of death. The group are being killed one by one, and it is a very real fear of death that drives them ever onwards, trying to escape from the forest and survive with their lives.

Being a horror film, throughout the tone is tragic, with a real sense of dread; a fear of where and when the next attack will take place. There’s some witty banter between the friends at the beginning of the film, but that is quickly put to rest after one of the group is killed within the first fifteen minutes, leading to little levity for the rest of the film, other than a few sarcastic quips here and there.

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