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Director David Bruckner’s (The Signal) survival horror-thriller “The Ritual,” written by Joe Barton and adapted from the novel by Adam Nevill, is “Deliverance” meets “The Blair Witch Project,” the film follows a group of men facing supernatural and ancient terrors.

Four Brits go on a hiking trip through the Swedish wilderness. What was originally planned as a lads’ trip has become a memorial for their friend Rob (Paul Reid), killed in a senseless act of violence during a liquor store robbery. Though it should offer relief and closure, the trip only sheds light on the outrage among the group, especially toward Luke (Rafe Spall), who was with Rob in his final moments.

The clash intensifies when the men decide to take a shortcut through the forest and end up stalked and hunted by a supernatural creature that roars and bellows in the night, leaving shredded animal carcasses hanging in the trees and haunting their dreams.

“The Ritual” is proficient and very successful in its technique, relying on sound, its sinister blueprint, and the men’s own fear and poor decisions to generate the sense of persistent doom. We don’t see the monster in too much detail, leaving the mystery intact, but the creature design is stunningly original.

Throughout, Luke is tormented by nightmares and visions of Rob’s murder, dealing with survivor’s guilt as he tries to stay alive. Is he a coward? Or overcome with natural will to live? It’s an ironic dilemma to ponder while battling ancient Swedish monsters.

Streaming on VidAngel

My rating B+

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