Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rituals (1977)

Drab, depressing Deliverance ripoff about a group of doctors who, during a fishing excursion, run afoul of something sinister in the woods of Canada. It's a genuinely grueling film, for which I give it credit, but the wholesale dourness draped over the entire thing saps it of energy. The opening scenes are just as devoid of mirth as the rest of it, and that's a miscalculation that dampens the punch of the ordeal we're shown. I admit that part of my apathy towards this stems from the picture quality of the second-generation bootleg (much of the tape appears to be threading through a muddy windshield). I also admit that this has parts that work like they should; director Peter Carter has a reasonably skilled directorial eye and mostly adheres to the classic Hitchcock definition of suspense. When these two tendencies mesh properly (as in the beartrap-in-the-river sequence), Rituals works better than its trash origins should allow; more often, though, one of the two elements is out of sync. The climactic immolation scene, in particular, would be disturbing if it weren't so chaotically cut together. Maybe I'll like this better if I ever see a cleaner print, but I'm not holding my breath.

Grade: C


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