This week’s movie is actually an adaptation of the old 1943 Val Lewton classic I Walked With a Zombie from RKO. The movie centers around Alice, a disgraced New York doctor, that is hired by a man in Jamaica to look after his little brother, Wesley. The family owns a large sugar cane plantation on the island and Wesley thinks that someone has put a voodoo curse on him. It’s up to Alice to figure out what is wrong with Wesley while those around her begin to succumb to the same strange symptoms that are afflicting him.
I originally picked this movie because I am a huge Tales from the Crypt fan. I love how it blends the goofy and the gory in the best way possibly and their first film, Demon Knight, remains one of my absolute favorite horror films. I will seriously watch that given the smallest excuse. However, this movie has actually nothing to do with TftC. There is no Crypt Keeper except on the cover and the feel of the movie is much more standard horror/thriller than the fun, campy horror that would expect from a Tales from the Crypt joint. So I guess good job on the production company getting people to watch your movie by slapping the name on there. That being said, it does have Tim Curry in it so fuck it.
Coming off of the last week’s movies, seeing a movie set in Jamaica with a large black cast still have to have the plot be “White woman saves white man from black menace” is just sad. The movie at least points out the fact that while it might seem like a paradise that it is only that way to the tourists and that life is hard for the people that have to work there. We see people working in the fields right before heading up to the big plantation house. However the movie then immediately sets up that it’s Wesley’s brother that is bad and greedy. Everyone loves Wesley because he is nice to the workers, completely missing the point that he is still a plantation owner even if he isn’t a dick about it.
As with pretty much every movie I’ve ever seen in the last 30 years that deals with Voodoo, there is also the idea of belief versus science that runs through out. Unlock a lot of them, it basically turns out that no, the white doctor lady actually is right and the “curse” is just a disease that can be cured and even the “zombie powder” that is used is just a chemical agent that can be counteracted. The whole movie plays out as essentially White Man Knows Best with a small amount of cultural appropriation thrown in. The ending of the movie is also pretty much horrible with a white couple being married and all the black servants crying and so happy for the rich folks while the voodoo priestess was turned into a zombie and is now in essentially going to be raped by the head of the police. That is the note they wanted to go out on.
The movie is well acted and directed, to be sure. There was a good amount of production value that went into it. It does, however, drag on quite a bit even after a lot of the main plot points have been uncovered. It goes for about an hour and 45 minutes and really could have wrapped up with about a half hour of that edited out. The one thing I will say for this movie is the use of nudity and sexuality in the movie is done with some actual thought. It is used as power from several female characters and shown as a part of culture. Probably the saddest part of this is the use of gore. There is almost none outside of the opening scene which was done really well and felt like something from a Tales from the Crypt movie but from then on there is nothing more but some shitty CGI and a couple scrapes on people.
Overall I was disappointed with Ritual. I was looking forward to at least enjoying something super campy and fun even if it was a bad movie but I didn’t even get that. Instead it turns into a fairly mediocre voodoo thriller without any edge to it. I’d give it a 2 out of 5 with most of that just coming from the fact that it is well made enough that you can sit through it but there isn’t any reason to.