Friday, April 29, 2011

Rituals (1977)

I wonder if it’s possible writing something new about Rituals? I’m not sure really, because it’s one of those rare genre-movies that are only exploitation on the surface, while it really is such a more competent and intelligent piece of adventure/thriller/drama than the mainstream-media probably realize. At a first glance Rituals is just a rip-off on Deliverance. Yeah, that could be true. It’s easy to see the similarities, but Rituals has one thing that actually makes it better: a couple of drunk doctors.

You see, Deliverance – which is a masterpiece, one of the most perfect movies EVER – has Burt Reynolds. Über-macho-warrior Numero Uno. In Deliverance there’s Burt doing the protecting and deep inside we all know that Burt will save the day with his bow and arrow somehow. In Rituals we have five quite pathetic doctors who want to do their “ritual”, be men, get drunk, smoke some weed and then go back to their families and jobs they really hate. Their ritual is to take a long walk, but still never face danger or adventure. Just do something macho they can brag about to their colleagues afterwards.

They are all losers. Even Hal Holbrook, as the wise and older doctor who refuses to let someone die in his job, preferring to let them be vegetables for life instead of dead, is a weak mother. During the whole movie he goes from being a gentleman to the savage he despise so much, and in the end… well, let’s say that he’s not so innocent anymore. These are normal human beings, so far away from stereotypes or cliché-ridden characters you can get. All of them have their major faults, but it’s hard to dislike them because we all know that we probably would react in the same way if something similar happen to us, or even less terrifying!

Shot in continuity, which mean they shot the movie in the same order as the scenes in the script, which helps a lot in this trip to hell. It’s clearly visible on the actors, not only with make-up and costumes getting dirtier and dirtier, but the eyes, the voices and reactions. It’s a very physical movie, and none of them are any athletes, which makes it even more filled with tension. One unique thing with Rituals is that there’s a gay character, and nothing more. He mentions an ex-boyfriend, and that’s it. It’s no big deal, it’s nothing amazing or disgusting or bizarre or politically correct. It’s just the way life is. And that what Rituals in the end are about, acting and dialogue. Probably the most naturalistic I’ve ever seen in genre movie. They could have done it so much simpler, so much more stupid. But the script is smart, the characters multi-layered and the direction flawless.

Rituals are of course also about terror and horror, and even if it’s quite slow compared to other movies in the same genre, it manages to spellbind the spectator for 100 minutes. Not more graphic violence and blood, except in the end, and it’s more of Deliverance than a typical horror movie.

I’ve said it many times, Rituals is a masterpiece. A classy, emotionally charged backwoods-thriller with everything from great drama, excellent acting, blood and violence. It has it all. The Code Red DVD is a must in the collection. The print(s) used is not fantastic and quite rough, but superior to all previous incarnations of this movie. So throw away that ugly motherfucker of german big box, those blurry tapes and watch the movie like it should be watched.

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