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The Spin Sheet

DVD review by David Steigman of The Digital Bits


Rituals (DVD)

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Rituals
1997 (2011) - Code Red DVD
Released on DVD in April, 2011

Dolby Digital

Film Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/B-


Unless you're a fan of obscure genre films, there probably aren't many people who have heard of Rituals (a.k.a. the Creeper). This is the story of five doctors on a trip into the wilderness in Canada, who are suddenly placed into a situation where, one by one, each gets either brutally murdered or wounded so badly that they might as well be dead anyway.


The five actors in Rituals are really incredible, giving absolutely superb performances as their characters are faced with a very deadly situation. We have Hal Holbrook (All the President's Men, Into the Wild), Lawrence Dane (who also served as the producer), Robin Gammell (Lipstick, The Haunting of Julia), Ken James (who has had roles in many TV series, including a recent CSI NY episode) and Gary Reineke (Iron Eagle II). Together, they begin losing their sanity when they realize that they're being stalked by a deranged human being.

As the cast dwindles, we get an even closer look at Holbrook and Dane's characters, and see how each deals with this near death experience in a different way. Mitzi (played brilliantly by Dane) appears to be torn between running away, fending for himself and wanting to help his friends, but he's not willing to risk his own life. On the other hand, Harry (Hollbrook) is looking to do the right thing. He wants to save his fallen friends or (in some cases) at least to end their torment. By the way, the film is called Rituals for two reasons. The first is the characters' yearly, ritual trip and the second is the ritualistic manner in which the stalker commits his crimes.

Shot in the wilderness of Batchawana Bay by Lake Superior, Rituals is often compared to Deliverance. Having seen multiple viewings of it, I feel it might be similar in at least one aspect - the basic idea of a group of men going on a wilderness trip. Other than that, it really isn't anything like Deliverance. In Deliverance, we at least know who the killers are. In Rituals, the film takes on a much more mysterious and dramatic horror feel. And, of course, we don't get to see Ned Beatty's bare behind.

Code Red has presented this DVD with the "best possible" film elements they could find, and the results are overall really pleasing. The transfer is offered in uncut anamorphic widescreen. There is a bit of film grain here and there, but considering what an obscure 'lost' film this is, you're in for a real treat. Plus, the grain just adds to the overall stylistic grittiness of the movie. Toward the end of the film, there is one trouble spot with the print, where the negative was apparently damaged in the lab. The transfer also has an occasionally hazy look to it, but it's not overly distracting. The audio quality is even better than the video, included in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

In addition to a nice A/V presentation, we also get some great supplements. Lawrence Dane, who is rightfully very proud of this picture, is prominent in the extras. First he gives us a brief introduction to the movie, then supplies us with a great audio commentary. Any fan of Rituals will want to hear this track. One of the interesting tidbits he offers early on is that this film was 90% shot in continuity, which means that as each character died, the actor's work was done and went home. There's a video interview with Dane on the disc as well, where he repeats much the same information from the commentary, then talks of his other projects over the years. There's also an interview with Robin Gammell, who discusses his experience with this film and his fear of heights. (Hint: He was terrified about being carried on the dam.) A theatrical trailer for the film, and promo trailers for several other Code Red titles (including Trapped, The Last Chase and Nightmare), round out the supplement package.

Rituals is a very good, gritty and disturbing film, but it will certainly not appeal to the general, mainstream audience. It's not overly gory, though it does have some violent scenes and what's shown is pretty graphic. But if you're a genre lover or fan of independent, low budget horror, this movie should find a welcome home on your DVD shelf. For those of you on the fence about buying it, the only thing I can say is that the film is worth taking a chance on. If you're interested, however, I would order your copy quickly as there appears to be a very limited distribution of this disc.

David Steigman
davidsteigman@thedigitalbits.com
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