Ritual (2002)
Ritual (2002)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 39 min.

Release Date: September 18th, 2002 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Avi Nesher Actors: Jennifer Grey, Craig Sheffer, Daniel Lapaine, Kristen Wilson, Gabriel Casseus, Tim Curry, Ron Taylor, Dorothy Cunningham, Jessica Collins

 


 

T

he film starts with bouncy bosoms in close-up, before the Crypt Keeper (voiced by John Kassir) gives his painfully stereotyped Jamaican accent to introduce the coming presentation. In “Ritual,” as the story proper begins, veterinarian Matthew Hope (Tim Curry) similarly ogles the shapely torso of various women at Wesley Claybourne’s (Daniel Lapaine) big birthday bash. The man of the hour is unable to attend, however, as he’s under the weather, plagued by hallucinations and visions of some strange, violent, native ceremony.

Soon, although night falls, the temperature seems to keep rising – unbearably so. In Dr. Winsvold’s (Erick Avari) laboratory, the heat leaps to over 200 degrees – or at least it does so in his mind. He imagines himself liquifying from the inside out, his blood boiling and his skin sloughing off (in a spectacularly over-the-top, carnage-filled sequence, which is never bettered throughout). Later that evening, however, the doctor’s un-mutilated body is discovered by Paul Claybourne (Craig Sheffer), Wes’ brother.

Meanwhile, in New York, Dr. Alice J. Dodgson (Jennifer Grey) makes a grave mistake, using the unauthorized drug Raptomycin to treat a young female patient. When the girl dies, Alice is stripped of her medical license for two years, forcing her to resort to less than desirable work out of the country. When Wesley inexplicably slips in and out of a coma, complicated by brain seizures, the Claybourne family hires Alice to help with uncovering the cause. Once in Jamaica – a paradise for tourists, but a tough existence for residents, who contend with rampant poverty and constantly carry machetes for protection – Alice is unnerved by mysterious behaviors and continual nightmares. Assistant Caro Lamb (Kristen Wilson) is pleasant but odd (parading around in the nude and flirting with everyone), Paul seems to be concealing details about disappearances and deaths on the grounds, the staff is unfriendly, and Wes believes he’s a zombie.

The third (and final) theatrical entry in the “Tales from the Crypt” series, “Ritual” is based on the 1943 film “I Walked with a Zombie” – itself loosely based on “Jane Eyre.” The primary plot remains mostly the same, though the gore and exploitation elements (such as sex, nudity, perpetual stages of undress for the female characters, and ceaseless opportunities for sweat-soaked clothing to unveil shapely body parts) have been amplified. While many of these moments are amusing, particularly when practical effects are utilized, a few shots augmented by computer graphics are noticeably disappointing. Flashes of horrific imagery and jump scares – chiefly from macabre visions – are better supplements, brought about from a largely unseen antagonist: a so-called evil voodoo priest and his powerful black magic.

“Is this gonna take long? It’s a little creepy out here.” In between Alice’s gathering of clues concerning Wesley’s ghoulish entrancement (along with an accumulating list of murder victims), plenty of time is wasted on revelry, light comic relief from supporting players, a hint of romance between doctor and patient, and flashbacks to scenes that occurred just minutes before. Even though there are interludes of graphic slasher violence and occult witchery, the editing (appearing as if made-for-TV or as if many shots were haphazardly trimmed), dialogue, and pacing are bland enough that “Ritual” decreases in tension and becomes almost boring as it progresses, rather than more frenetic and terrifying. And a few twists at the conclusion don’t help. At least the acting is adequate, propelling the film just slightly above the likes of its embarrassingly low-budget brethren.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10