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A Dangerous Shortcut: A Review of The Ritual

Arsher Ali as Phil, Sam Troughton as Dom, Rafe Spall as Luke and Robert-James Collier as Hutch.

The Ritual is a British horror film based on Adam Nevill’s book by the same name. It was released on October 12, 2017 by Netflix.

This review is spoiler-free. As always, the only time I share spoilers about a movie or tv show on my site would be if I needed to warn my readers about potentially triggering material in it. There was nothing like that in this film.

The premise of The Ritual is a simple one. After losing an old university friend to a random act of violence, Phil, Dom, Luke, and Hutch went hiking and camping in a remote corner of Sweden to spend time together and honour the memory of their deceased friend.

About a day into their trip, Dom tripped and accidentally injured his knee. The group still had many kilometres to go through the mountains on their hike, and none of their cellphones could get a signal in such a remote location. The four characters decided to take a shortcut through the woods so that he could rest and get proper medical attention as soon as possible due to these factors.

A violent thunderstorm began soon after they entered the woods, so the characters sought refuge in an abandoned cabin for the night despite their deeply uneasy feelings about the property. They broke up a piece of the house to start a fire, and then settled down for a good night’s rest before hopefully continuing their journey in the morning.

As they were about to discover, they should have listened to those feelings. The cabin wasn’t abandoned after all, and the person/entity/thing who lived there wasn’t pleased by their trespassing at all. (I must be purposefully vague on this point in order to avoid giving you too many hints about who or what these characters angered).

The Characters

My main criticism of this film has to do with how similar all four of the characters were. Phil, Dom, Luke, and Hutch all had fairly outgoing, sarcastic, and jovial personalities that tended to blend into one another.

There also wasn’t a lot of information given about their backstories.  What were their occupations? Were they married or otherwise in longterm relationships? If they weren’t single, were their partners men or women? Did they have kids? The references to their adult lives were so sparse that I still don’t know the answers to these questions for all four of the main characters in this storyline. As nice as it was to have some of these questions answered for some of them, I thought it was odd that such basic information wasn’t provided for everyone.

I had a difficult time thinking of them as individuals because of this. While I’d certainly expect such a tight-knit group of old friends to share many common interests, it would have been nice to have more character development before the plot picked up so that I could remember who was who when they did make rare references to their personal lives. Sharing details about who they shared their lives with and what occupations they had would have gone a long way to separating these characters in my mind.

There’s nothing wrong with a plot-driven storyline, but I do think this one would have been even better if it had taken more time to show who the characters were before putting them into terrible danger.

The Antagonist

There isn’t much I can say about the antagonist without giving away major spoilers, but I was much happier with how this portion of the plot was handled.

The backstory was well-developed and fit into the storyline nicely. I especially liked the fact that it took the characters as long as they did to learn anything at all about what was lurking in the woods. This wasn’t a case of characters knowing in advance that a particular spot had a bad reputation and deciding to explore it anyway.

They had no idea what they were about to stumble into after the thunderstorm began, and that made the later events of the plot even more exciting than they would have otherwise been. It also provided plausible deniability for why they didn’t immediately leave the cabin they were staying in the first time something frightening happened in it.

In my opinion, horror movies are most enjoyable when the characters genuinely had no idea what they were getting into before the first bizarre things happens to them.

The Horror

One of the things I always want to know before I watch something from this genre is what sort of horror we’re talking about.

Is the plot gory? Does the fear the characters and audience feel mostly come from anticipation, or will we actually see whatever it is that seems to be roaming around in the woods and hunting them down? Do the characters react sensibly the first time they sense something is horribly wrong?

Once again, I’m dancing around spoilers here, so bear with me if I don’t fully answer all of your questions.

The first thing I’d say about the plot is that it is firmly planted in the horror genre. If you love being scared, there are plenty of spine-chilling scenes to come when you begin watching The Ritual. I had to watch a couple of scenes from the corner of my eye because of how scared I was for the characters in them.

As far as the gore goes, it definitely existed. This isn’t something I’d recommend to people who have a phobia of blood or gore even though the scenes that included those things were only a small part of the storyline overall.

I don’t like slasher movies, and this wasn’t one of them. The build up to the moment the characters realize the cabin they’ve broken into had never been abandoned at all was handled nicely. Honestly, the storyline was just as much about that moment as it was about everything that happened afterwards.

This isn’t the sort of tale that has any sort of profound messages about death, grief, or friendship woven into it. I’m not criticizing it by saying that, either. Not everything in life needs to be deep in order to be enjoyable. This is a classic horror film in every way, and the characters fit into that genre beautifully.

Should You Watch It?

If you love the horror genre and are in the mood for a satisfying scare, I would recommend this film.

Suggestion Saturday: May 19, 2018

Here is this week’s list of poems, blog posts, volunteer opportunities, and other links from my favourite corners of the web.

Volunteer Bloggers Wanted at ‪MigraineMantras‬.  If you’re a writer who is living with migraines, chronic pain, chronic illnesses, and/or an invisible illness, Migraine Mantras wants to hear from you. They are currently seeking volunteer bloggers to write essays, stories, and poems for their site. Click on the links above to see what they’ve already published. Email Jorie at MigraineMantras@gmail.com for more information if this sounds like something you’re interested in.

Speaking of volunteers, Long and Short Reviews is looking for more volunteer book reviewers. You can contact them through the email address listed in the link above or read my blog post on the topic from last year. Neither of these opportunities should ever make you close a book vigorously, but today’s funny image in in honour of them.

Wrong. We need more fairy tales like this.

Can You Unplug for One Day? via JMLevinton. It would be hard for me to stay offline entirely for a day. I’d at least need a few minutes to check my messages. How do you all feel about this challenge?

Practicing Mindfulness from Dawn Until Dusk via CorinneBlogs. If you have any interest in all in mindfulness, go read this post. It was excellent.

Socialize Like An Ambivert via Fushiee_. I’m a deeply introverted person. Asking me to behave like an extrovert would be like asking me to decide to sprout a pair of wings and start flying around. Acting like an ambivert is something I can do, however! How about you?

What Stephen Hawking’s Final Paper Really Means. This was just plain interesting.

Why a Daily Habit of Reading Books Should Be Your Priority, According to Science. Yes, reading definitely is exercise for your brain. I’m always a little surprised when I meet people who never read anything at all. It’s like meeting someone who never exercises in any way (and who has no medical reasons for making that choice).

 

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My Response to Pocket Dimension

My friend, Michael, recently posted a writing prompt about pocket dimensions. I thought it would be fun to answer his questions in the form of a blog post.

Congratulations! You have your own little world. Not just your imagination – this is a physical reality, and you can step into it at will. Maybe it’s a pocket dimension, or your own private little corner of the Fay Realms. Whatever it is, it’s yours. So…

1. What does your realm look like? Is it indoors? Outdoors? A cottage on a deserted shore? A crumbling castle at the heart of a dark forest? A broad lake with a waterfall at one end and beaches around three sides? Something else entirely?

My pocket dimension is indoors. It’s located in the library of a grand, old house that is magically well-insulated. The house is cool in the summer, warm in the winter, never dusty, and always a comfortable place to visit.

The library itself has a large fireplace on one end and floor-to-ceiling windows on the other. The wood floors have been recently swept, and all of the books are arranged neatly according to the Dewey Decimal system. Many of them are about topics humans would recognize, albeit from a strictly faery perspective instead of from a human one. Let’s just say that they weren’t a fan of the Iron Age at all.

With that being said, some of the books aren’t like anything you’d find on Earth. Some of the books have mouths and will have long conversations with you if you ask them the right questions. Others teach you how to fly as you read them, share alternate histories of Earth if one key fact had changed at a particular time and place, and a few might even be portals to other places entirely if you flip to the correct page of the right story and read it’s contents aloud.

There is a washroom and well-stocked kitchen off to either side of the library for anyone who needs them while they’re visiting. I often grab a piece of fruit and cup of tea before I begin reading.

2. Do you keep it to yourself, give a few friends access to it as well, or open it to anybody?

The library is open to anyone I trust who loves knowledge and adventure. They are free to visit it with or without me at any time of the day or night.

3. Does your realm have its own inhabitants? What are they like? Do you ever bring them across to our world?

The house is owned and maintained by faeries, but you might never run into one. They’re quite shy around most humans. Even I have only met one of them, and even that was the briefest encounter you can possibly imagine. She nodded slightly at me, cracked open the door to the library, and then never showed herself again.

I wouldn’t be strong enough to bring one of the faeries back to Earth with me even if I spotted another one and wanted to show them our world. They do whatever it is they want to do, and that’s all there is to it.

4. Does entering your personal world change you? Do you dress differently, speak differently? Are you someone else when you’re there?

You cannot enter the faery library if you’re carrying anything like iron that would hurt the faeries or if you’re harbouring any thoughts about harming them, the house, or anyone else in it. Other than that, you may speak, dress, and behave as you wish.

5. Is time the same in your realm as it is out here? Is there a steady differential, like three days there pass in only an hour of our time? Or is it stranger than that?

Time is different in the faery house. A few hours of reading there generally translates into a few minutes of time in our world, but this isn’t a straightforward rule. As with everything related to faeries, they can’t be forced to follow human rules. Anyone who wishes to visit their library should remember that and prepare for the small possibility of returning much sooner or later than they were expecting.

6. How do you get to your world? Do you have to visit a specific place? Speak a certain phrase? Or is it just a matter of will and desire?

It’s a matter of will and desire. If you wish to read in a quiet, comfortable place, have no ill intentions, and have satisfied whatever nebulous criteria the faeries have for this oasis, you stand a good chance of finding a door to this place.

How would you answer these questions? What would your pocket dimension be like?

Health and Fitness at the Dollar Store

One of the biggest misconceptions some people have about getting fit is that it requires a significant investment of money in the beginning if you’re starting out with little to no equipment.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A few nights ago, I took a stroll around a dollar store to see what kinds of health and fitness items they had for sale there. I jotted down everything I could find that could somehow be connected to this topic, and the list was much longer than I ever would have imagined it would be.

Seriously. I was expecting to find maybe ten things there, but I ended up finding closer to a hundred of them if every category is fully expanded to include every example in them.

This is what they had for sale there:

  • T-shirts
  • Hats
  • Sandals
  • Hair ties
  • Socks
  • Sports bras
  • Ponchos
  • Support insoles for shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach towels
  • Goggles
  • Bug Repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • First Aid supplies (bandaids, disinfectant, etc).
  • Plastic and metal buckets of various sizes (for transporting dirty or wet items back home)
  • Reusable plastic water bottles
  • Fishing poles
  • Headlamps
  • Small lanterns (if hiking or camping are on your to-do list)
  • Pet toys (for playing tug-of-war or fetch)
  • Pool toys
  • Toys and games for all ages/abilities (dart guns, dart boards, balls, chalk, jump ropes, etc)
  • Young children’s toys (plastic baseball bats, miniature golf clubs, etc)
  • Balloons (for water balloon fights or other similar games)
  • Beach toys (small shovels, plastic molds for making sandcastles, etc).
  • Frisbees
  • Rainbow flyers
  • Gardening tools (hand rakes, small shovels, etc).
  • Badminton rackets and balls
  • Plastic/rubber balls for other sports
  • Hula hoops
  • Sports equipment (rackets, balls, etc).
  • Yoga mats
  • Kettleballs
  • Resistance bands
  • Exercise wheels
  • Push up stands
  • Stretch bands
  • Roll out exercise wheels
  • Yoga mats
  • Yoga towels
  • Nonperishable, fairly healthy snacks (nuts, beef jerky, bottled water, canned fruit, applesauce.)
  • Many types of large reusable bags (for toting around everything on this list!)

Some of the items on this list did cost more than a dollar, but all of them were very inexpensive in general.

Whether I was planning to hike, swim, build sandcastles play any number of sports, jog, lift weights, stretch, do yoga, garden, go camping, or participate in any number of other activities, there were products for almost every type of exercise one could possibly imagine. I was seriously impressed by their selection.

Why am I recommending checking out your local dollar store if I believe in minimalism and buying quality over quantity?

There are a few reasons why this could be a smart idea under certain circumstances:

Not Everything Needs to be Well-Made in Order to be Useful

Several years ago, I bought a sun hat from the dollar store that suits my purposes perfectly when I want to exercise outdoors on a sunny day. Was it fashionable? Well, only if you’re a time traveller from 1995, but I’m not the kind of person who worries about how trendy I look when I’m working out.

Why spend $60 on something like that if you can spend $2 or $3 instead for the exact same outcome? For the kinds of activities I do, the type of hat doesn’t matter in the least. Anything that shades my face and neck from the sun will be more than adequate for my purposes.

It’s a Low-Cost Way to Try New Activities

For example, I like the idea of playing badminton. Every so often, I toy around with the thought of playing that sport as part of my fitness routine.

As mentioned above, the dollar store carries badminton equipment. While it isn’t made from high quality materials, it would be the perfect thing for me to play around with if I ever decide to finally add this sport to my list of preferred activities.

Spending a few dollars wouldn’t break the bank, and I could  go to a secondhand store or a regular store to find much sturdier equipment if I decided that this was something I wanted to play more than occasionally and my original racket broke.

Speaking of broken items….

Losing or Breaking A New Item Won’t Be So Disappointing

I’m very protective of the few possessions I have that are top-notch. Anyone who wants to borrow them has to earn my trust first, and I’d horribly disappointed if they were damaged, lost, or destroyed in an accident or through someone else’s carelessness. There are certain places that I really wouldn’t want to take those items to due to the risks of them being exposed to the water, dirt, or sand that could ruin them.

The nice thing about dollar store purchases is that you don’t stand to lose hundreds or thousands of dollars if they’re accidentally broken or lost. I wouldn’t hesitate to lend out something like a hula hoop or a pool toy I bought from the dollar store to a friend or relative.

If that item was later returned to me in pristine condition, great! If not, I’ve only lost a few dollars at most. Replacing it won’t hurt my bottom line at all, so I don’t have a problem lending it out or taking it places where the risks of something happening are higher than usual.

What’s At Your Local Dollar Store?

Assuming you live in a part of the world that has dollar stores (or pound shops/variety stores, as they’re sometimes called), what kinds of health and fitness items have you spotted there?

I’d love to compare my list with yours!