Written and Directed by: Anthony Spadaccini
Starring: Paul McCloskey, Joey Garrison, Barbara Lessin[
Reviewed by: Brett G.
“This is who I am. I'm a serial killer.”
When he created fictional serial killers Wayne and Andrea Montgomery, writer/director Anthony Spadaccini wasn’t content to simply stop at their sick, twisted exploits. Instead, he set out to create an insane and seedy world that would reveal itself over the course of three films. The second entry of this demented trilogy, The Ritual, reveals more of this twisted universe and its perverse inhabitants.
Picking up where the previous film, Head Case, left off, this one finds Wayne a fugitive of the law. With his wife Andrea in custody, he seeks out another apprentice to assist him with his serial killing. He finds a willing participant in Jared, a teenager who has been abandoned by his family and friends. No longer content with killing neighborhood pets, Jared embarks on a dark journey filled with death and mutilation. A tangled web of events eventually leads to friction between the two, and Jared must decide if he can embrace what he has become.
The Ritual takes an appropriate path for a sequel: it opens things up and reveals a larger world for our protagonists to inhabit. It’s probably more apt to call it an “underworld,” as we’re not only treated to more sick exploits from Wayne himself, but also his cronies that have formed a sort of serial killer support network. It sounds ridiculous, and it probably is, but there’s also something a bit frightening about the way these people casually carry out their nasty business. During their conversations with each other, we come to find out just how sick these people are, as they take pride in their tactics and their skills.
Unfortunately, this also one of the film’s biggest missteps: get ready for a lot of conversing, as these people spend a lot more time talking about their work than actually doing it. There’s very little on-screen carnage this time around, and though the post-mortem mutilations of Head Case seemed gratuitous, they also added a necessary visceral punch. Here, we certainly hear about some disgusting exploits, and we certainly hear a lot about “the rules” as Wayne lays them out for his new protégé. It wears on rather quickly, and, if not for a few flashes where some intense conflicts crop up, it would be an altogether dull affair. Such flashes are just that, too--fleeting moments that spring up in otherwise overwrought narrative that’s far too long for its own good. The multiple plot lines and occasional, bizarre montages don’t ever quite come together, and the film could benefit from trimming some fat from its nearly 2 hour run-time.
There’s probably some semblance of a decent movie buried down in all the madness. The technical competence is still there, and this one even takes a more cinematic approach at times by interspersing “re-enactments” with the found footage elements. It still feels like more of the same, but this aspect still works well enough (if only the “found footage” were always interesting). The performances are still fine, especially considering all of the scenes were improvised. Joey Garrison’s wide-eyed, overly exuberant take on Jared grows a bit annoying at times, but I suppose it’s an apt contrast to McCloskey’s relaxed, deadpan performance as Wayne. The two characters’ relationship is disturbing, once you get past the somewhat illogical nature of it all; then again, when the film’s subject is passing on madness itself, I suppose you can gloss over certain things.
I will say this about The Ritual, though: like its predecessor, it ends in a place that’s rather intriguing, and I can’t help but wonder where it’ll all end up. If each movie could manage to be as interesting as their conclusions, they’d be pretty special, but they just feel like one long journey to a destination at this point. Hopefully the endpoint will be a satisfying payoff, which is certainly possible; this ends with a nice call back to an event in the first film that puts a spin on that film’s events. Hopefully the final entry, Post-Mortem, will have made it all worthwhile. This is one ritual, however, that’s only worth participating in once. Rent it!
For more information, please visit the film's website.
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