Following his closest friends' murder, some bloke named Luke (Rafe Spall) leads the rest of his college pals on a hiking trip as a tribute to their late colleague's memory. Initially evocative and more adventurous than they expected, the journey is soon cut short following a tedious injury. In order to get to safety as quick as possible, a shortcut through the forest is taken, where a sense of unease slowly begins to emerge and a number of dark truths soon come to fruition.
The Ritual is a film very independent at its core, which makes its superb production design and special effects all the more admirable. This same praise also applies when discussing the overall atmosphere; yeah, it occasionally relies on cheap jumps, but isn't without strong moments of eerie chills and many frightening twists, certainly making some of its key set pieces all the more entertaining and intimidating.
The movie's key flaw lies within the story itself; while it begins with some surprising emotional heft, it eventually resorts to following many horror clichés and lacks consistently refined development, particularly when the key antagonists emerge within the climax. The protagonists fare no better in all honesty, which is a great a shame considering how the leading performances are largely superb and deserving of much praise.
It's basically a story that begins strong yet sinks majorly as it approaches the conclusion. While it has its chilling and thrilling moments, the final act itself certainly feels rushed and contrived in many ways, all coming to an end with an unusually abrupt and inadvertently comical conclusion. The Ritual does offer a genuinely scary experience in some of its most unsettling moments, but that makes it even more disappointing to see it lose interest in its narrative and pacing as it goes on.