CAMPING; part two

The Ritual 2017

Dir: David Bruckner 

Perhaps i’m a little biased, but Brits are definitely making the best horror movies at the minute.

Maybe not the best ever, (after extensive scientific research I’ve concluded that Koreans make the best ever), but we are getting considerably better. More importantly directors have stopped using stupid british stereotypes and taking the genre for one big fucking joke (and I promise this isnt a snide jab at Shaun of the Dead, even though i fucking hated it). 

Whilst Hollywood seems to keep churning out one jump scare/found footage/thoughtless remake disaster after another, Brit horror has started to finesse the underrated art of the slow burner.

Make no mistakes about this; if a film starts off slow you’re guaranteed an absolute treat. Blair Witch, for example, is an archetypal slow burner; horrifically dull to begin with, lures you into a false sense of total security, two hours later you’ve left the cinema hollow, afraid and bewildered. Other examples include The ExcoristRing, Eden Lake, The Loved Ones, even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-all horror CLASSICS, and yet nothing actually happens for a while in pretty much all of them. 

As a self proclaimed horror connoisseur, I believe the best scares happen when you’re not sure when to expect them. The only issue with this logic is that we live in the instant gratification era of social media where the average attention span is 00.003 seconds. Getting people in 2017 to even SIT through a film like the 1999 Blair Witch is hard enough, so directors have had to resort to cliched watered down scripts and pantomime tactics to keep viewers engaged.
Every few years on this side of the pond, an absolutely underrated banger of a movie will be released which shows just how refined we are becoming at creating genuine fear. Whilst we may be crap at a lot of things (like voting for leaders, making eye contact or being direct) our levels of horrifying just keep getting better and better.

Based on a lads holiday gone exceptionally wrong, the story is totally doomed from the very start. 

*Spoilers ahead*

A lead character from the “group” is murdered during a robbery within minutes of the films opening. His unexpected murder leads to an undercurrent of resentment, blame and guilt, which remains ever present throughout. In many ways he becomes the film’s protagonist as his absence from the group is continually highlighted creating an uncomfortable dynamic between the other characters, who each seem to have their opinions about the circumstances surrounding his death. 

A largely unwanted hiking trip later ensues to honour his memory; this hike follows a long trail from Norway to Sweden, which they ultimately hope will result in getting very drunk at a lodge on the other side.

Obviously someone gets injured and they have to take the “shortcut”.

Luckily the director isn’t a douche, and doesn’t mock your intelligence, we all know what happens when you take a shortcut through the woods, including the characters themselves, who’s banter and laddish jokes indicate that they do too. 

Making remarks about how they’re going to end up dead, is definitely not far from the truth. The group finds themselves being hunted in a bizarre ritualistic fashion, which initially seems like witchcraft, but emerges as something much more terrifying.

Combining elements from classic horror, there is an level of predictability which David Bruckner playfully draws on to create said false sense of security with the viewer. Everything you think may happen you have to later rethink; the twist in plot is very smart and very original.

Definitely up there with The Descent and Creep; also further fuels my desire to stay in hotels whilst in rural regions. 

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Vice Docs gone wrong

The Sacrament  (2013)
Dir: Ti West

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Three flannel wearing, New York hipsters who work for Vice (stay with me), go to the middle of nowhere to find some dude’s sister (“Patrick” being dude in question). In short she joined a cult dressed up as a rehab center, found God, and sent her brother a letter about it, which raised some alarm bells.

Patrick, Vice’s very nonchalant fashion photographer, hasn’t seen said sister (Caroline) in years. Contrary to what the film intends to convey, he actually seems highly inconvienanced by the idea of making such an elaborate journey to check on her safety, because it involves going all the way to Africa, and not hanging out with models in LA as he is used to. Great guy

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In the letter he’s given a non specific place in Africa to fly to, (maybe because TI West didn’t feel a geographical context was necessary), to then get picked up by a random guy in a helicopter and head to a secret location which he and his friends may or may not die in.

Cue another found footage movie.

At this stage you’ve gotta question how forced this initial interaction is. Now before anyone slams me with the “true story/Jonestown speech” I am perfectly aware that it’s based on the Jonestown Incident THANKS (click Jonestown Massacre if  you are unaware of the incident and for whatever reason and want to depress yourself and ruin your day with some nasty historical trivia). For the sake of simple narrative its just their basis for the journey and sudden concern over Caroline’s safety which remains a total mystery to me.
If I had a sister who turned into a junkie and went to rehab in Mississipi I may call in every now and again to check in on her progress, because it’s a bit extreme to move from NY to Mississipi in the first place. Then it might occur to me to possibly visit if I haven’t spoken to her in a while, like on a flexible quarterly basis (like a gas bill). What I wouldn’t do is just WAIT until I randomly  got a letter one day inviting me to an undisclosed location on the opposite side of the world before I thought “oh yea….my sister.”
If it’s gone THAT far without a visit, an email is sufficient…maybe Skype on a special occasion.

On their way to the location,  which we later find out is called “Eden Parish” we get the feeling that they’re really not fully comprehending  this whole “danger” thing. The people responsible for picking them up and dropping them off begin the pleasant exchange by pulling out a gun and threatening to shoot them if they carry on filming. Luckily super chirpy Caroline pops up to let everyone know it’s just a precaution because of where they are, and it’s all peace and love and they’re in Paradise now.

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Caroline then takes them on a very anti climatic guided tour of the “grounds”, which looks more like a handful of scattered shacks then paradise, and explains that Eden Parish is lead by “Father”. Father is a man who “saved” her, and seemingly did the same for dozens of other people living there. She tells them in a highly exaggerated charles manson-esque monologue that everything was built from scratch and they are the happiest people on earth.. BUT it wouldn’t have been possible without some level of secrecy.

And this is when the questions start….

I don’t really need to bore you with a spoiler alert, because you know what happens in Jonestown and that’s literally what happens here (sorry kids). Theres no axe welding killer in the commute,  no satanic worship, no supernatural forces, just some old creep who’s sadly managed to rob and manipulate a bunch of people and successfully detach them from all contact with the outside world.

There are times where his rhetoric and vision actually seems quite socialist and profound. Like a slightly nutty more religious left wing leader, but then you remember he’s literally just an opportunistic mentalist who’s using people for money, sex and to stroke his ego. Like a political leader, but with cyanide.

There are points where it’s slow, and a bit “where the fuck is this going” (basically like a Vice documentary), but then it gets really good when they have a one-on-one with father, and he manages to shit all over Sam’s questions. I don’t know why I found that so satisfying, guess I obviously like rooting for the bad guy.

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I will admit when I initially heard “Hi I’m Sam Turner….Vice….Williamsburg…Brooklyn…beard….fashion photographer….ginger beard…” I was like ok I hope you die soon.

Sadly you’ll have to watch the film to find out

Official Trailer