While watching Ritual, roughly around the hour mark, you’ll feel an overwhelming sense of relief. You’ll believe the worst is over, you’ll think the terror has reached its conclusion, you’ll hope for no more suffering – but you’ll be wrong…there’s at least another 20 minutes left!
When John (Dewanto) wakes half-buried in a shallow grave in some dense woods, his memory gone and his phone devoid of contacts, fear understandably sets in. When he then discovers a cabin where it seems his wife was murdered and his children abducted he panics, only to discover that he himself is now being stalked by a mystery assailant.
As a summary, the above makes the flimsy, lazily elongated plot appear more interesting than it actually is. Instead of what could have been a taught, tense thriller Ritual descends into a weary chase movie where you never really care who is chasing whom, or why. Random scenes of unpleasantness, presumably designed to shock an audience increasingly immune to blood and gore, smack of desperation and an effort to add depth to the narrative, but serve more as oddly implanted cut scenes from different films.
Terrible as the plot is, though, it is a high point when compared with the performances. It is hard to believe any one member of the cast is a professional actor, so horribly and unenthusiastically delivered are the lines of dialogue. Granted there is little to work with, but the impression you get is that everyone is simply going through the motions in order to get off the set and make it home as quickly as possible. It is rumoured Ritual was filmed in just 9 days. Given that, and we’re speculating here, approximately 2 hours was spent on the script (and that includes making copies), and allowing time for sleep, it’s fair to say writer and director Joko Anwar has achieved something in managing to make a film in the first place. True, there are some impressive visuals but in ignoring filmmaking fundamentals, Anwar has wasted a real opportunity.
So back to those final 20 minutes. In order to avoid spoilers, we will not reveal the content of that final act, but it feels like the filmmakers themselves were confused. While most horror-literate viewers will have picked up where things were headed early on, it appears Anwar perhaps did not. Instead, there is an exposition heavy conclusion that seems to go on and on and on…
Indonesian cinema is without doubt on the rise, but as with all things, there will be good and bad. Ritual is one of the latter.
RITUAL / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JOKO ANWAR / STARRING: RIO DEWANTO, HANNAH AL RASHID, MARSHA TIMOTHY / RELEASE DATE: 26TH DECEMBER