We’re back and we’re lost in the woods. There seem to be some familiar landmarks, however. If we look to the left, there’s The Blair Witch Project. Over there on the right is The Wicker Man. And sneaking up behind us is just about every rural horror film made. What, if anything, makes The Ritual stand out in this landscape?

Main Topic

The Ritual is a 2017 British horror film, based on the 2011 novel by Adam Nevill. We decided to discuss it because it follows on nicely from our episode about survival horror. The book especially is a great example of the genre, combining isolation, a hostile environment, dwindling resources and an unkillable threat. The dynamic of a group of friends who disagree about everything also appealed to us for some reason.

The Ritual film poster

As ever, we offer an overview of the film, picking it apart as we go, then tear deeper into the remains to see what we can scavenge for our games. We also do something a little different this time, comparing the film to Nevill’s original novel.

The Ritual book cover

We all know people who complain about film adaptations, with their rambling rants about how the book was better. It’s irritating. Any film based on a novel has to change and simplify elements to better fit the new medium. An adaptation does not replace the book and merely offers a fresh perspective. Still, it’s interesting to compare the two, looking at what is different and the impact of these changes. So we do. And we complain a bit because we are flawed and complex human beings. Consistency is for insects.


At least some of us will be at the UK Games Expo this year. Expo is the UK’s largest gaming convention, hosted in Birmingham, and runs from the 1st to the 3rd of June. We plan to be there on Friday the 1st, running some games, signing books at the Chaosium stand and generally drifting around like lost souls. Please do say hi if you’re there.

Other Stuff

In our social media catch-up, we pick out a few choice comments on our recent episode about The Last Feast of Harlequin. As usual, most of the discussion can be found on our Google+ community. There are many insightful comments we didn’t have time to spotlight, so we recommend having a look for yourself.

After we mentioned how harlequinade sounds like a soft drink made from clowns, William Adcock suggested that this is what such a horror would taste like.

Nighttime in the woods is unnerving. Every crack of a twig or rustle of leaves hints at some unseen horror, stalking under cover of darkness. Silence is even worse, however. Does that mean that there’s nothing out there, or is there a predator too stealthy for human ears to detect? The dread soon becomes unbearable. It’s like an episode of The Good Friends without any songs. Sooner or later, someone will back us at the $5 level on Patreon and the horror will begin anew. In the meantime, cower in your tent and pray for dawn.

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3 comments on “The Ritual

  1. Reading ‘The Ritual’ I was strongly reminded of certain points made by ‘the Good Friends’, and particularly Scott Dorward.

    1) That the supernatural elements are never really explained or rationalised. They just ARE in this obscure corner of the world, and in all their weirdness and horror.

    2) That the ‘cultists’ (\m/ Blood Frenzy \m/) apparently don’t understand the reality of the situation any more than Luke (who has just stumbled into it unintentionally) does. They just interpret it in terms of their own self-serving mish-mash of an ideology (a wee bit of Satanism, a wee bit of Nazism, a wee bit of old Norse mythology/religion… anything that will serve to give some meaning to their essentially meaningless taste for sadism and murder.)

    As a fan of supernatural horror, I really like 1), and as someone quite strongly convinced of the “banality of evil” I really appreciate 2).

    Also, it’s like a male, above-ground version of ‘The Descent’.

  2. Evan Dorkin Jun 28, 2018

    I don’t think it’s a major classic or anything but I liked the movie a bit more than you guys (esp Paul, obviously). To me it felt like a filmed Call of Cthulhu adventure in many ways (isn’t there a written scenario with people shoved into trees similarly, and an abandoned cabin or church in the woods?). I liked that it didn’t feel exploitative, it wasn’t overly-shouty as it could have been with the disagreements/disagreeable characters, that it didn’t over-explain much, that Hutch the fit member who knew things died first (he punches Dom in the nose, btw, not Luke, it’s actually an interesting choice/moment, I think. No one challenges Hutch, their nominal leader/expert/strong guy, once he’s gone shit really goes wrong for them). I didn’t feel they all acted stupidly like in most of these things, more like emotionally – the shortcut made sense, there were no warnings on trees until they were already in the ancient woods, and those warnings weren’t super-ominous and could be taken for hunting symbols or just nonsense (until the elk, I’d think). There was no “don’t go on the moors” or local vagrant warning them away, they had no clue of anything dangerous in the woods. Just a junked car. The cabin was a safe place from rain, they weren’t freaking out yet until the dreams (although I would’ve set a guard just for vagrants or crazies, because I’m too paranoid myself).

    The revealing of information comes very naturally, very RPG scenario-like, and there are no super-villain speeches in the end or generic fights or overly-extended ritual horsehockey (I watched the Void the following day and…it was a bit of one for the last half hour with the malarkey, imho). It all worked for me, it just wasn’t amazing.

    And I liked the ending — it’s a jarring movie ending because we don’t expect clean, “simple” endings anymore, but I felt it was an apt ending. I liked that the ancient, forbidden place had boundaries, you can’t win, but you can escape, although maybe never quite recover. Finally, the creature was a very impressive design that never gets shown too clearly. The shot where it’s first revealed in full against the flaming building really works in a classic way without revealing tons of detail, it stays mysterious but you get a good sense of it.

    I agree the liquor store motif should’ve been cut down to fewer instances, portraying dream logic can become tiresome/tacky, and the point was made, it works in the first instance and the last, and maybe needed only one more showing for the rule of threes. But the murder of the friend — which I wasn’t crazy about because nowadays seemingly every movie begins with a personal tragedy and a move to a cheaper location for filming/isolating everyone — does at least explain in a functional plot way why they’ve slogged out to the middle of nowhere. They feel forced to follow up on what was their dead friend’s idea for the vacation. And they perform the first ritual of the film, with the cairn, which is a nice touch. Maybe the second, if you count boy’s night at the pub.

    Anyway, my two (ten?) cents. Good episode, decent movie, made me want to track down the book.

  3. Richard Thornley Aug 22, 2018

    Quite enjoyed this movie, thanks for turning me on to it. Now I’m awaiting the book— got a hold on this at the library. 🙂

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