THE RITE STUFF
The makers of The Ritual’s five steps to creating a British Blair Witch Project
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...