RITUALS (1977) Reviews and Blu-ray news

On January 12th 2021, Code Red in conjunction with Kino Lorber is releasing Rituals on Blu-ray in North America. Special features

2018 HD Remaster from the vault elements
Audio Commentary with Star/Producer Lawrence Dane, Moderated by Lee Christian
Interviews with Stars Lawrence Dane and Robin Gummell
Theatrical Trailer
Optional English Subtitles

Meanwhile, here is our previous coverage of Rituals:

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‘If you go down in the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise.’

Rituals is a 1977 Canadian horror thriller film about five doctors on a wilderness trip that are stalked by disfigured, crazed killers.

Directed by Peter Carter from a screenplay written by Ian Sutherland, the movie stars Hal Holbrook (The Unholy; Creepshow; The Fog), Lawrence Dane, Robin Gammell, Ken James and Gary Reineke. Produced by Lawrence Dane, Ted Holliday and Harry H. Novak.

Special makeup effects were provided by Carl Fullerton (The Silence of the Lambs; Spasms; The Hunger; Ghost Story; Wolfen; Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13th Part III).

Review:

Five doctors take their annual break from the rigours of their comfortable lives and settle upon the backwoods of Canada for their destination.

Self-importance, lack of patience and a drinking habit are already causing tension in the camp when, on the second day, the majority of their shoes appear to have vanished whilst they were asleep, leaving the remaining camper with footwear to trudge off to find help.

When he doesn’t return, the cantankerous and miserable troop set off to find where he’s got to, only to find deadly traps and a presence in the forest who has clearly taken a dislike to them…

Known as The Creeper in some incarnations, a name that does it no favours at all, Rituals is part of an odd fascination with backwoods shenanigans that cropped up in mid-70s American/Canadian cinema, following in the shoes (or not, in this case) of Deliverance (1972) and Open Season (1974).

The film is in no way the poor cousin with a magnificent, completely believable cast, including several actors who certainly earned their stripes in the genre; Hal Holbrook (The UnholyThe Fog, Creepshow), Lawrence Dane (Scanners, Happy Birthday To Me)Robin Gammell (The Pyx), alongside Ken James and Gary Reineke.

Though superficially the big brother to many forest/campsite slashers, the most interesting aspect of the film is the dynamics between the doctors; almost immediately unable to cope when removed from their comfort zone, despite their early years in the army, they look to pin the blame on anyone they can and their breakdown is both sometimes humorous and truly quite gruelling.

Even without the hidden menace stalking them, it would appear they would stand little chance of survival even when pitted against the river, plants, and wasps that plague them throughout. As it is, by the time the killer is revealed, your nails will be firmly dug into the arms of your chair, the trials they have gone through enough to leave you breathless yourself.

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Despite the grisly trials the doctors go through, there is barely any blood, let alone gore, the psychological terror being intoxicating enough and quite rightly the actors are allowed to express themselves without the trappings the slasher film would soon develop.

The forest setting is suitably unpleasant and the feeling of their fear and exhaustion is easy to appreciate. If the final reveal is slightly disappointing – mainly due to the actual shot being so dark and murky – it would be churlish to be overly critical.

This is absolutely top-drawer horror, showing how a film can be creepy, dark and thoughtful without cheap tricks and with actors at the very top of their game.

Daz Lawrence, MOVIES and MANIA

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Other reviews:

“A tense, sometimes brutal motion picture, Rituals is a movie that will get under your skin, and stay there for quite some time.” 2,500 Movies Challenge

“It’s an uneven but compelling adventure thriller, and the murder/death scenes are memorable; the killer is less apt to attack directly than he is to set traps and use scare tactics, and some of these are quite nightmarish. The movie appears to have been made very cheaply (about a sixth of the budget went towards Hal Holbrook’s salary), but it uses its money and locations well.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“There’s extremely little gore and blood in this flick, which I of course miss… but when it comes, the few seconds here and there, it becomes very strong […] One of the best Canuxploitation-movies out there. Well, it’s more than exploitation. It’s truly a classy, intelligent horror movie.” Ninja Dixon

“Carter’s picture absolutely wears its influences on its sleeve and no one will likely be claiming this as the most original picture ever made. With that said, it’s a good movie, derivative or not. What sets this one apart from a lot of other backwoods horror films isn’t just what happens to our campers but how they react to it and how they in turn react to one another.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

“Admittedly this film would never have existed without the obvious influence of Deliverance but Rituals is a different film altogether; the men have a much tougher time than Reynolds and the boys, the male group dynamic completely breaks down and the killer is kept unseen until the final moments of the film. Rituals is also noteworthy for being one of the first backwoods slasher flicks…” The Spinning Image

” …there’s a well-crafted atmosphere boasting some creepy moments. Some bloody special effects and rough editing round out this above-average effort. And the stalker’s motives are a refreshing twist on the backwoods slasher genre. A winning sleeper that crawls under your skin and stays there. Worth seeking out.” The Terror Trap

DVD release:

The film was finally given a North American DVD release via Code Red in 2011.

rituals code red dvd

Buy DVD: Amazon.com

Cast and characters:

Hal Holbrook … Harry
Lawrence Dane … Mitzi
Robin Gammell … Martin
Ken James … Abel
Gary Reineke … D.J.
Murray Westgate … Pilot
Jack Creley … Jesse
Michael Zenon … Matthew

Trailer:

  

One Comment on “RITUALS (1977) Reviews and Blu-ray news”

  1. I’m not as much an admirer of this film as Daz Lawrence is, but it definitely has its moments and doesn’t deserve the “BOMB” reputation and low ratings it has consistently received. Certainly the lesser cousin of “Deliverance,” but far above the slasher-in-the-woods dreck that would later follow.

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