RITUALS (1977)

Directed By: Peter Carter 
Written By: Ian Sutherland 
Cinematography: Rene Verzier 
Editor: George Appleby

Cast: Hal Holbrook, Lawrence Dane, Robin Gammell, Ken James, Gary Reineke, Michael Zevon, Jack Crelay, Murray Westgate 

Five doctors go on vacation deep in the Canadian wilderness. After all but one pair of the party’s shoes disappear, the remaining shoe camper decides to hike out and go look for help. Soon after he leaves, however, his four companions realize 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.


The film works as we spend most of the time with the characters and their reactions to various circumstances that at first seem random. As they start out as minor then grow as their desperation does also.

Already weary of each other though they are lifelong friends and siblings. Stuck in the Terrain in the middle of nowhere. The tensions are already high between them. So that when problems arise. They slowly turn on one another.

The film raises the intensity between them and their reactions in the first half of the movie before getting more to the horror/thriller elements of the second half 

The characters fit into certain types including a gay character whose sexuality is revealed not blatantly, but nonchalantly.

As the film goes along the characters’ true selves are revealed under duress. Exposing How some will truly act or react under pressure.

This is one of the first few leading man roles I have seen Hal Holbrook in and he goes above and beyond in the role. Showing a true star in the midst. In a role that feels lived in.

The film adds in the horror elements when it remembers. Only to help add to all the commotion Going on. Though there is a countdown of sorts, eventually there is going to be an attack at a certain point.

The film wisely never Amps up the action. It stays reserved. Never revealing its hand or giving hints too early. As most is revealed along with the characters. So that the audience never quite knows exactly what to expect in advance.

The film offers beautiful landscapes of nature that for all Their beauty have its own fair share of mystery.

At heart, this is a survival movie. Where a group of doctors going on a fishing trip seems to become the hunted. Out of the many places, it could have gone happy it stays somewhat simple and riveting. 

It’s filmed unglamorous so that it feels as stark and ugly as the land sometimes becomes. Mostly shot in close up so you see all the blood, sweat, and tears not to mention dirt, grime, imperfections, and injuries. 

This film came out of nowhere. As it goes along breaking down the genre while setting it up also. Until its own shocking final reveal.

Grade: B

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