This is One Ritual You Want No Part Of

Main Cast: Rio Dewanto

Director: Joko Anwar

So I saw this movie the other day, and I had decided at first not to bother reviewing it because it was, in the end, just silly. But after thinking on it last night at work I decided I would go ahead and review it anyway. It’s silly, no doubt, but it had some good points, too.

The movie, Ritual (written and directed by Joko Anwar, The Forbidden Door), opens with a man, “John Evans”, waking up in the middle of the woods, having been buried alive. It’s a shallow grave, though, obviously meant to be escaped from. John has no memory of who he is, where he is, or what’s happened to him. Only by checking his pockets and finding a cell phone wiped clean of any contacts, and a wallet with an ID naming him as John Evans, does he begin to piece together the events that have led to his current predicament.

He wanders through the woods until he finds a house and, inside, is terrified to find a videotape showing a pregnant woman, the woman in a photo in his wallet, being murdered. Only then does he see the body lying on the floor behind him.

John flees the house and is chased by the man responsible. He finally escapes his pursuer and takes refuge in a small shack where he finds a lantern. Before he can do anything else, though, he hears the man coming, so he ducks into an empty truck to hide. The man comes into the shack, locks the trunk, and covers it in gasoline before lighting it and leaving the cabin.

John escapes, barely, and flees further into the woods. His wife is dead, but the children he saw in his wallet and on the video, give him reason to keep going. They’re out there somewhere and he has to find them before it’s too late.

That’s as far as I can go into this movie without spoiling it and, although I did say it was silly–which it is–that doesn’t mean someone reading this won’t be intrigued and decide to see it. But trust me, it’s silly. VERY.

I will give credit, however, to Rio Dewanto (The Forbidden Door) who makes the most out of a mostly silent role. The suspense is definitely there as he fights for survival with no idea what’s going on. I believed he was lost in the woods, feared for his life, and had no memory of how he got there, or why.

For the first two acts, I was intrigued, curious to know what the answer was to this riddle (only to be very disappointed in the third and final act, but that’s neither here nor there right now) and very much taking John’s journey with him. As a father myself, I can only imagine how terrible it must be to wake up in that place, buried alive, wife murdered, and children still out there somewhere while you fight for your life. So for the first two-thirds, while I wasn’t totally invested because I knew so little about the characters or even how they wound up in this place (I know they were “on holiday”, and that’s as far as it goes), I could empathize with his plight and hope he and the kids come out of it alright in the end.

However. That third act. Man, that just really tossed everything I was holding onto for this movie right down the toilet. What a silly, ridiculous, absurd plot twist that was. It did make a sort of sense, considering the movie is called Ritual and anyone who’s read up on serial killers know they all have their own ritual when it comes to killing, but holy crap, man, that was just a turn for the dumb.

Anwar must have gotten the ending in mind before writing the rest of the story, as it was obvious everything that had come before was ONLY a lead in to get to that dumb twist at the end. And while I’m all for a good twist, this one was just plain dumb. Blech!

And so I felt I had to write this review after all, if for other reason than to world the world that, while it sounds intriguing, and starts off with great promise, Ritual ends on such a terrible note, you wouldn’t forgive yourself for wasting the hour and a half to watch this. Instead, you can take my warning and steer very clear of this one and use that time to do something productive. Write your own script. If this movie shows anything it’s that an entire movie can be written in the time it takes to watch one. And it would probably have a better ending, too.

–C. Dennis Moore

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