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May 27 18

A small group of friends decide to go hiking in the wilderness to get away from the stress and hassle of the big city. But danger is lurking in the shadows and not every man will make it out alive. Sound familiar?

This popular plotline shows up once again in The Ritual, a Netflix original movie (based upon the novel by Adam Nevill). Four mates mourning the loss of a good friend head to the dense, dark forests of northern Sweden to honor his memory. The Brits are carrying along a lot of baggage – and I don’t  mean camping equipment.

Their history and collective trauma adds weight to what could have been a forgettable horror movie. Warning signs of the unknown danger they will soon face become apparent as soon as they leave the hiking trails for what they hope will be a shortcut back to civilization. Guilt and resentment are extra burdens the men must carry as they fight for survival.

Who or what is stalking them? Butchered offerings are left high in the rune-covered trees, and every once in a while one of the men sees a glimpse of a creature both huge and mythical. They hear it’s blood-curdling screams at night, and when they sleep it invades their minds – forcing them to relive their worst nightmares and failures.

I liked the monster. I found it unique to the genre.

The Ritual is darkly atmospheric and suspenseful until the last scene, and all of the actors give stellar performances: Rob James-Collier, Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Paul Reed and especially Sam Troughton. His annoying character, Dom, got my vote early on for “Dude I Want to See Die First.”

So, how many goblins does this flick deserve? 3.5 out of 5 … at the very least.