Rituals (DE - DVD R2)
Gabe went down to the woods today, and he was in for a big surprise...
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Five city-boy doctors take a trip deep into the Canadian wilderness. Mild bickering turns nasty when all but one pair of shoes goes missing. The doc with shoes still on his feet decides to take a hike for help. He’s gone for a very long time, and after the shoeless campers find a bloody deer head they decide to follow their friend's trail out of the woods. Bear traps, mistrust, and flat out murder mar the trip.
Deliverance isn't exactly a film genre, but it did ‘inspire’ a whole lot of other backwoods trouble features, including underrated little gems like Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort and Jeff Lieberman’s Just Before Dawn. Even Tobe Hooper’s equally inspirational Texas Chain Saw Massacre owes a small debt to the film’s winning formula. Canada’s grindhouse took five years to jump on the ‘crazy rednecks’ bandwagon, but they made up for their tardiness by basically lifting Deliverance’s basic plot wholesale when they put together Rituals (aka: The Creeper).
Pinching another film’s story isn’t a crime, at least as long as it can’t be proven in a court of law, but usually equals crap on screen. The best we can usually hope for from a rip off is lurid entertainment value, especially from a genre feature, but Rituals breaks the mould, at least a little bit. Rather than graphic gore, exploitative nudity, or cheap thrills, director Peter Carter depends on suspense and acting. The shocking violence and cheap thrills are still there, especially during the potboiling final act, but the story develops through character moments, and the characters are developed by real actors. Not real famous actors, but real actors none-the-less.
Unfortunately we already have a dramatic and shocking character study about upper-middle class guys attacked by backwater freaks while on a camping trip, it’s called Deliverance. Rituals is a classy pic, and well made to be sure, but it has so much in common with John Boorman’s feature that most viewers will be turned off.
Sometimes collectors have to order internationally in order to get their hands on obscure titles. Sometimes these collectors will have a choice, sometimes they do not. Collectors in search of Rituals have two choices (that I can find), an out of print NTSC Synergy release (specs unknown), or this German PAL release. If you want to see the movie you’re going to have to brave a grimey transfer. There’s some charm to the artefacts, chunky dirt clods, and black tracking lines here, but overall it’s kind of like watching an old 8 MM filmstrip projected on a slightly soiled white sheet. German subtitles are burned in, but if you don’t care too much about OAR (which is 1.66:1), this non-anamorphic print can easily be zoomed to 1.78:1, thus hiding the majority of the subtitles. Or maybe you want to learn German. I can think of worse ways to learn German.
The sound mix is just as lo-fi as the video presentation. Ideally the sound would only come from the rear speakers and be accompanied by the clicking sound of spooling reels, but alas this is DVD, and not a full recreation of the 1970s college dorm room experience. Distortion and pops are omnipresent, and sound effects and music are often garbled, but most of the dialogue is clear enough to understand.
Some stills. That is all.
Rituals is a cash-in, and it doesn’t live up to its gruesome reputation, but it is a finely crafted and well acted bit of wilderness adventure. The last act should satiate the horror fans, and the photography should thrill fans of nature documentaries. This disc, apparently the only one on the world market, isn’t what most of us would call ‘DVD quality’, and there aren’t really any extras, but it’s housed in one of those big, plastic, German boxes, which adds to its charm.
This and other hard to find releases are available from my friends at Xploitedcinema.com. Check them out and support my sponsor.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Release Date: 1st January 1995
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: German (burned)
Extras: Still Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Peter Carter
Cast: Hal Holbrook, Lawrence Dane, Robin Gammell, Ken James, Gary Reineke
Genre: Adventure and Horror
Length: 100 minutes
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