2001 / Director. Avi Nesher.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
RITUAL is the official third instalment of the TALES FROM THE CRYPT film franchise and it endured a long and complicated distribution process. When the second film BORDELLO OF BLOOD became a critical and financial failure, the production company sold RITUAL to Miramax who, in turn, removed all TFTC references and released it as a stand alone film... a smart move.
Several years later, due to pressure from fans, they re-released it with all of excised material reinstated, and subsequently bastardised the TALES FROM THE CRYPT legacy by doing so. The result is a film that doesn't suit the franchise and lacks the fundamental characteristics that makes TFTC such an endearing property. RITUAL lacks the humour and frivolity of the previous instalments, as well as the surrealistic technical components like soundstage production designs and brash cinematography.
The first time I saw the film was during its stand-alone release, and without the franchise association it played really well (it still plays well if you are able to ignore the tacky add-ons). It is a straight horror-thriller set against the backdrop of a Jamaican landscape, where black magic echoes throughout the mountains. Jennifer Grey stars as a disgraced doctor who travels to Jamaica to work as a hospice carer for two brothers, one of whom is ill with a mysterious ailment that manifests itself as hallucinations. He believes himself to be a zombie and he lives in a possessed-like state.
The story is a loose remake of the 1943 film I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and was shot entirely on location. The jungle setting enhances the horror, which is presented in a frantic and unsettling way. The hallucination sequences are consistently nightmarish and effectively chaotic. One particular body-melt delusion is incredibly gory while other visions include spiders, deathly vines and machete-wielding psychopaths... all of which are well handled.
There are very few fans of RITUAL out there and the film is generally a point of ridicule. As a third instalment in the franchise it certainly begs for mockery. The Crytkeeper intro is a cheap tack-on that uses the puppet which was previously used for the TV series DVD menus (it has minimal movement and looks lame). The voiceover, however, is good and I believe it was recorded several years before the eventual DVD release, prior to the distribution fiasco (get in touch with me if you know the specifics).
And yet as a stand-alone direct-to-video release I can't help but like this movie. It works. Jennifer Grey is good (and constantly wears a see through singlet with rock-hard nipples) and the support cast are adequate. They include Craig Sheffer, Tim Currey and Aussie actor Daniel Lapaine. The direction from Avi Nesher (DOPPLEGANGER) is competent and the pacing is tight and never lags.
I am dead-curious to learn the true back-story to this one. With CRYPT creators (and Hollywood heavyweights) Richard Donner, Joel Silver, Walter Hill, David Giler and Robert Zemeckis all attached as producers, there must be a juicy story behind this production. Stay tuned because I intend to explore it further.....