Rituals (1978)

Genres - Action, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Drama  |   Release Date - May 31, 1977 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - Canada   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This Canadian thriller with horror overtones is one of the best films to follow in the footsteps of Deliverance. Like that John Boorman classic, this film places a group of everyman urban types in the wild and pits them against a rural menace. However, Rituals sidesteps the pitfalls of being a copycat by adding its own wrinkles into the mix: conflict between the heroes plays a bigger role in the story than it does in Deliverance and the finale takes things to a darker, more pessimistic extreme than its apparent inspiration did. Needless to say, Rituals isn't what one would call light fare but those who can stick with it will be rewarded with an uncompromising, intelligent thriller that offers some dark commentary on the human condition. It also boasts stellar performances across the board: Hal Holbrook is the obvious standout as the grim realist of the group but underrated Canadian actor Lawrence Dane adds a lot to the film as the survivor who clashes with Holbrook's bleak outlook. Their verbal sparring sessions enhance the tension of the film, creating the intensity of emotion necessary to make the storyline work. Horror fans will be impressed by Peter Carter's direction, which creates a hellish atmosphere for the goings-on and builds to a shattering finale that will have the audience on edge. To sum up, Rituals is a powerful, frequently unnerving blend of horror and social commentary that deserves more notice.