Digital Popcorn: Ritual (2002)

Ritual (2002)

99 minutes

Rated: R

Director: Avi Nesher

Stars: Jennifer Grey, Craig Sheffer, Daniel Lapaine, Kristen Wilson and Tim Curry.

Story:  The movie begins with Dr. Alice Dodgson (Grey) disobeying the orders of the hospital she works at, and giving a patient an experimental drug to save her life.  When the patient dies as a result, Alice’s medical license is suspended for two years.  In order to make ends meet, she signs up with an agency that is looking for people to provide hospice care to patients overseas.  Interestingly, the agency doesn’t require a medical license.  Alice is sent to Jamaica to care for Wesley Claiborne who is one of two brothers of a wealthy white family on the island. Wesley supposedly has atypical cephalitis. After Alice arrives there she learns Wesley also believes that he’s been ‘cursed’ by a voodoo priest.  Alice, along with a motley crew of Caro Lamb (Wilson) and J.B. (Gabriel Casseus), she attempts to find out the cause of Wesley’s affliction and along the way learns of some violent murders that may be tied to Wesley and/or the voodoo priest as well as the turbulent past of the Wesley and his brother’s family.

My Two Cents:

I was surprised when I watched this on Netflix that it actually is the third installment of the Tales From the Crypt movies. The cover art I saw only had a small Crypts logo in the upper left corner. Perhaps they’re trying to distance themselves from the horrendous Blood of Bordello?

Regardless of their reasoning behind the lack of promotion, Ritual still has the camp and gore you would expect from a Tales from the Crypt movie. You’ll see buckets of gore very early in the movie along with the token boob close up. But as the movie progresses the gore disappointingly exits stage left, but you will get amble opportunity to see some T&A curtesy of Grey and Wilson.

The other thing that stood out, awkwardly, was the music. There are a few party scenes where a live band is featured and the music was godawful. It gave the movie a 1980’s vibe to it regardless of the fact that it was made in 2002.  Throughout this entire movie there’s something about it in terms of production that just reeks of the 1980’s but given the computers used in certain scenes I’m given the impression that it really is set in 2002. Weird. There also is some computer generated animation that’ll make you want to bust out your original PlayStation … at least that’s what the CGI looks like.

Overall the acting in Ritual is good enough to make the characters believable but no one really stood out to me.  Tim Curry is a personal favorite but he is unfortunately rarely used in the movie and when he does have a scene it doesn’t take advantage of his acting chops.  I think it hurt the movie not to develop his role/character more.

The plot of Ritual is interesting, the mix of voodoo and Jamaican culture with Alice’s western medical view on it. However there are scenes within the movie that just drag the plot down and add nothing to the development of the characters. A story like Ritual should be fast paced and tension filled, and at times it does this. However, the writers/director drop the ball throughout the movie. There’s an actual scene where the characters go swimming for fun while all this heavy shit is going on in the plot. Seriously? It felt like something out of an 80’s romantic comedy. The plot also drags at times and I found myself thinking ‘Get on with it already!’

On the good side I liked the fact that Alice wasn’t your typical helpless woman that you often see in horror movies. She drove the plot and unlike the other movie clichés, Alice didn’t come across as a bitch nor was she perceived that way by the other characters. I found that refreshing.

I also liked the fact that Jamaica wasn’t presented as a white man’s  or a stoner’s paradise. They showed the seedy/poor sections of Jamaica and acknowledged the huge distinction between the resorts and the villages. Ritual isn’t trying to make a political statement, but it was nice to see them break away from the Hollywood clichés.

As far as the truth behind Wesley’s disease and the voodoo priest, I found it all a bit silly. I won’t ruin anything but let’s just say ‘meow’.  There’s also a brilliantly hilarious scene toward the end where a character is set on fire and runs off screen, only to reappear apparently without any injuries a few minutes later. Seriously? The dude’s ass was a bonfire and now he’s okay? They must have some serious ganja in Jamaica make him feel no pain…

The end of the movie felt rushed, and it actually felt like an entire scene was left on the cutting room floor and instead they immediately jumped to the happily ever after. I could’ve done without the final honeymoon scene, too.

I would recommend Ritual to you only if you want something mildly interesting late at night or on a rainy day. It’s the kind of movie that I didn’t feel like I missed anything important if I went into the kitchen for a snack without pausing it.

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2 thoughts on “Digital Popcorn: Ritual (2002)

  1. Thanks for the review, Kevin. My daughter and I are constantly looking on Netflix for good horror movies. More often than not, we’re disappointed. American horror story is difficult to beat though.

    Liked by 1 person

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