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Screams on Screens!: Rituals (1977)

Written by Film

Slashers are a dime a dozen, with many following the tired tropes of the 80s, the neglect of story for gore or the unfortunate trend of utterly failing at capturing the magic that makes even the worst of the bunch entertaining. However, before the sub-genre kicked off in spectacular fashion, there were films such as Rituals, stellar experiences that put atmospheric horror first.

In this classic, under-the-radar film (which can be watched in full on YouTube), we watch as a group of doctors go into the jungle for a camping trip only to become prey to vicious hunters who lay traps and stalk them in the night. Rarely do we see these killers, but we feel and struggle under their presence nonetheless.

Rituals triumphs in shunning the spotlight on the breaking down of the survivors rather than the killer. Some slashers excel at focusing on their villains, such as The Maniac or Scream, but others, like the tired Halloween or Friday the 13th sequels, tend to neglect their core cast in doing so.

They aren’t stand-out or the best of the best – they’re not quite Tarantino characters – but they’re leaps and bounds above many others in the genre. The banter between the group is entertaining, their arrogance stems from being overly confident in their intelligence and their downfall is brilliant as they start off on an incredibly high note with some great witty moments.

The original 1977 poster is classic Horror. Image:IMDB.

But many people, myself guilty for this as well, flock to this gemstone of the horror genre for the violence. It may be a slow burner, with some of the thrills being as small as shoes being stolen in the pitfalls of night, but when things amp up, the very core part of the sub-genre that brings audiences in is present in glorious fashion.

What transpires is not too dissimilar to Lord of the Flies as our survivors become unbelievably isolated and cut-off with nobody to rely on but themselves. The way out is riddled with traps and they are being stalked by those more comfortable and accustomed to the environment than themselves. In crafting such a setting, Peter Carter, the director, builds unbelievable tension and suspense which makes the core cast’s descent into madness all the more believable.

It’s safe to say that Rituals is an underrated film, sitting on a measly 6.3/10 average on IMDB, but in retrospect, this entry into what was, at the time, a still-growing genre, is a worthwhile one that has cemented itself as a classic, even if it isn’t as iconic as its cohorts.

Imagine Lord of the Flies with an R-Rating and a slasher coat of paint in a jungle full of madmen with a thirst for blood – it’s not only a tangible narrative but it is also a deeply horrifying one and for a scary flick, what more can you ask for?

Last modified: 8th January 2020

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