THE RITE STUFF

The mak­ers of The Rit­ual’s five steps to cre­at­ing a Bri­tish Blair Witch Project

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW - WORDS WILL LAWRENCE

Serkis’ The Imag­i­nar­ium, The Rit­ual sends four old uni pals deep into the Swedish wilder­ness to face un­ex­pected ter­rors. Em­pire asked the cast and crew be­hind the adap­ta­tion of Adam Nevill’s out­doorsy 2011 novel to share their tips for cre­at­ing an ef­fec­tive chiller.

1. MAKE YOUR VIC­TIMS RE­LAT­ABLE

The cast­ing for the film’s De­liv­er­ance-like premise, in which a group of old col­lege mates find them­selves out of their com­fort zone (and depth), re­quired a lit­tle star power and a lot of re­lata­bil­ity. Di­rec­tor David Bruck­ner called on Rafe Spall to pro­vide a recog­nis­able lead, with Ar­sher Ali (Four Li­ons), Rob James-col­lier and Sam Troughton com­plet­ing the ill-fated quar­tet. “They’re very rounded char­ac­ters,” says Spall. “To me, any hor­ror film should hold up as a story even with­out the su­per­nat­u­ral el­e­ment.”

2. TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS

That su­per­nat­u­ral el­e­ment comes into play once the group leaves the walk­ing trail to take a short­cut through the for­est. On set, the dense Carpathian forests stood in for Swe­den, of­fer­ing suf­fo­cat­ing cathe­drals of pine trees. “Once you step un­der the canopy, it’s very claus­tro­pho­bic,” notes James-col­lier. “There’s a dif­fer­ent sound. Ev­ery­thing is muted, like you’re in a dif­fer­ent world. All you can see is tree af­ter tree af­ter tree in ev­ery di­rec­tion.”

3. LET THE IMAG­I­NA­TION RUN WILD

The Rit­ual is a mon­ster movie, though the char­ac­ters are left in the dark for some time, spark­ing that be­liever/ag­nos­tic di­vide so beloved of the genre. “I think the au­di­ence should be caught be­tween won­der­ing whether it’s hu­man or su­per­nat­u­ral hands that are in­volved,” says Spall. “My char­ac­ter is con­vinced that it is a su­per­nat­u­ral beast, while Sam’s char­ac­ter dis­agrees.”

4. GET PSY­CHO­LOG­I­CAL

The Rit­ual’s big bad preys on the char­ac­ters’ in­ner weak­nesses. This is shown first through its ef­fect on Spall’s char­ac­ter, who is strug­gling with the trauma of a vi­o­lent event he’d re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced. “Hor­ror has to be a re­flec­tion of an in­ter­nal ug­li­ness, of weak­nesses, of our anx­i­eties,” says Bruck­ner. “The beast likes to watch them from a dis­tance and sneak around in their minds. Their night­mares bub­ble up to the sur­face as a re­sult.”

5. MAKE THE MON­STER TER­RI­FY­ING

Mon­ster movies have rev­elled in the slow re­veal since Jaws, and The Rit­ual is no ex­cep­tion. Brace your­self for ter­ri­fy­ing teases and the odd glimpse of the beast. Guillermo del Toro mon­ster de­signer Keith Thomp­son was drafted in to sketch out the en­tity. “There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween a fan­tasy mon­ster and a hor­ror mon­ster,” stresses Bruck­ner. “In the book, it is goat-like, [but] we went for some­thing dif­fer­ent.” Malev­o­lent forces

and camp­ing? Ex­pect some­thing truly ter­ri­fy­ing.

Those long win­ter nights flew by in the forests of Swe­den with no Wifi...

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