Directed By: Peter Carter
Written By: Ian Sutherland
Released: 1977 Astral Film Ltd.
Hal Holbrook as Harry
Lawrence Dane as Mitzi
Robin Gammell as Martin
Ken James as Abel
Gary Reineke as D.J.
If I had to guess, I would say that this film came into my possession around 5 years ago. My older brother was downsizing his collection and had a bunch of VHS tapes that he was willing to part ways with. I couldn’t jump fast enough at that opportunity.
I viewed this film one time in the past five years (until now). It was hard to remember but the eerie, gritty, utter despair all came flooding back once I popped it in to write this review. If anything, Rituals taught me that if I ever had the desire to take a trip into the wilderness to chillax for a week…just don’t.
The Back Story
Rituals, aka The Creeper, is the second film by UK born/Canadian director Peter Carter. His first film, The Rowdyman, received high praise from many critics. With not much of a budget, but a cast that knew their craft, Carter set out to make a survivalist slasher film in the wilderness of Ontario, Canada. It’s pretty common for Rituals to be compared to Deliverance. True…the film’s plot is fairly similar to that of its U.S. counterpart, but Rituals delivers in a dangerous manner.
Our film begins with five doctor friends preparing to board an airplane that will fly them out to the middle of Nowhere, Canada for a week of fishing and relaxation. Harry, played by the legendary Hal Holbrook, is a laid back, straightforward man who has his demons, but remains to keep his cool. Side note; Holbrook will forever be a favorite of mine because of his role in The Crate segment in Creepshow. Mitzi, played by the genre king Lawrence Dane, seems to be Harry’s closest friend…but isn’t afraid to throw his problems in his face. Martin (Robin Gammell) is the most enjoyable of the dudes. An ex doctor, Martin has sworn off the scalpel and seriously sworn on the booze. D.J. (Gary Reineke) is the brains behind the weekend. He set it up, brought most of the supplies and even xeroxed everyone an itinerary. Then, last but not least, the lovable Abel (Ken James) who even in times of exhausted terror, still finds time to snap a picture to look back on and laugh.
After the first night, strange occurrences begin and their week of fun becomes a fight to survive. It all starts with the disappearance of every single boot. This, of course, makes traveling through wilderness, mountainous terrain and rock/bear trap filled creeks nearly impossible. Instantly, everyone recognizes that something is wrong…which is a fun twist for this type of film. Usually it takes a murder or two before people want to pack up and leave. Not these doctors. Someone stole some boots? Time to head back. D.J. is the only one who remembered to pack an extra pair of shoes, so he takes off on his own for a day-long trip to a hydroelectric dam in search of help. The others continue until Abel runs face first into a deer head (Carter used a real deer head in this scene) mounted up like a statue. Now, the party is officially over.
Tension, terror and danger awaits around every turn as the men trudge on, in search of D.J. and the dam. Now they know for sure they are being stalked by an unknown entity and they are lured into its web with every step they take. I don’t want to get too involved in what happens with this one, but the gloom and doom builds to a climax that might leave some ‘hot under the collar’. Ya get it?!?!?
This is a film that is ready for rediscovery. I could see this movie having quite a cult following, if it doesn’t already have one. The story is a basic ‘lost in the woods, stalked by a killer’ story, but it’s clever and done very well. You never feel any sort of safety for these men. Day, night, awake, knocked out…there is nowhere for the clan of docs to hide. Holbrook and Dane give astonishing performances. These two feed off of each other, really bringing the script to life. As doom sets in, the trepidation of being lost, exhausted, horrified and starving begins to affect the viewer and will stick around for a while after the credits role. My only real problem with the film is the big reveal at the end. No spoilers allowed, but a final battle is set up and falls short for me. Regardless, this is a film that I would definitely recommend. For fans of Deliverance, The Final Terror, Just Before Dawn and the like.
My Rating: 6/10