THE RITUAL

I first met ADAM NEVILL in 2011, shortly after our mutual US publisher asked me to write a cover quote for THE RITUAL. If you look at my post about the book, you’ll see that he and I were born a year apart in the same city, but it took the involvement of St Martin’s Press in New York for our paths to cross. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few horror conventions with Adam recently (next up – The Birmingham Horror Con Halloween Special next weekend) and it’s been great to catch up again and compare experiences. Adam recently moved into independent publishing, and I wholeheartedly recommend his two recent short story collections.

The film adaptation of THE RITUAL opened in the UK last weekend, and knowing the book well and having had opportunity to discuss the production of the film with Adam (and the frustrations of film-making for authors – which we talked about on a panel in Liverpool recently – photo below courtesy of Dan Burgess Photography) I was keen to watch it. It didn’t disappoint.

Here’s the blurb and the trailer. Click the link below for my thoughts.

Four old university friends reunite for a hiking trip in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. No longer young men, they have little left in common and tensions rise as they struggle to connect. Frustrated and tired they take a shortcut that turns their hike into a nightmare that could cost them their lives.

Lost, hungry and surrounded by forest untouched for millennia, they stumble across an isolated old house. Inside, they find the macabre remains of old rites and pagan sacrifices; ancient artefacts and unidentifiable bones. A place of dark ritual and home to a bestial presence that is still present in the ancient forest, and now they’re the prey.

As the four friends struggle toward salvation they discover that death doesn’t come easy among these ancient trees…

It’s not easy to get one of your novels filmed. It’s surprisingly easy to sell the rights, but as soon as the deal’s done the poor author is at the mercy of just about everyone and everything else. There are funds to be found, schedules to match, stars to align… it’s an astonishingly frustrating and unpredictable process, as I’ve found over the last decade or so with on-off-on-off HATER adaptation (last I heard – still on, currently waiting for an update to share). And then when the movie does get made, it’s often not what the author, or the readers, expected or wanted. Again, I’ve experienced this too, with AUTUMN (and as it’s ten years this December since the movie was filmed, I think I’m overdue a re-watch and re-evaluation). So it’s with real pleasure that I can report the film adaptation of THE RITUAL is a well-crafted and very effective movie.

If you were to simply read the synopsis and a handful of reviews, you’d be forgiven for thinking THE RITUAL is a story along the lines of EVIL DEAD or BLAIR WITCH. It’s not. Sure, there are some similarities, but THE RITUAL is something else entirely, and I’d rather you discovered why for yourselves, so won’t go into detail here. But what I can say, and what elevates this from films like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (and its derisory 2016 sequel), is that THE RITUAL is populated by characters we’re able to give a damn about. All four of the friends are well-defined, and there’s a strong backstory which holds them together/tears them apart and which gives us a real vested interest in their fates.

The film looks beautiful. As well as some stunning location shots, there are other dramatic visuals which make this something special. Again, at the risk of spoiling the film, I’ll not go into those here, but you’ll know them when you see them. The cast are excellent, particularly Rafe Spall and Sam Troughton, and the pacing is spot-on. How refreshing to watch a strong movie with a 90+ minute run-time. Maybe I’m just a grumpy old man, but many films these days seem to be two hours or longer and filled with bloat.

All in all, it’s great to be able to report that THE RITUAL is the adaptation Adam’s book deserved, and I very much recommend you watch it. It’s out now in UK cinemas, and will be hitting Netflix in the US and other regions later this year.

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